The Sussex Baby Lab

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The Sussex Baby Lab specialises in understanding how babies and toddlers see, think and learn about colour. 

Colour is everywhere you look and can affect many aspects of human behaviour. By studying it, we can gain great insight to baby and child development.


We are currently running remote testing sessions where participants can take part in studies online.


Current Online Projects:

Nature Images Preferences study - Urban vs Rural

We are interested in what natural images of our environment babies are more interested in. It has been previously found that as adults we like looking at a lovely photo of a nature scene over an urban scene. This is not yet clearly understood in infants which is why we are investigating this in our lab.We will do this by showing babies a series of natural images either of urban scenes (buildings, roads, cars) or rural scenes (trees,hills,fields). As we are showing these images we will record the video of the baby participant watching these images and capture their eye movments. From this we can measure what images they look at for longer showing they are more engaged and interested in certain images. This study is online over zoom and only takes aound 15 minutes which can be done in the comfort of your own home. It is great for parents to find out what their child is interested in. Please note for this study your baby must be aged between 4-8 months and you must own an iPad to take part. To sign up click here

 photo of session for urban vs rural studyBaby on zoom

Colour Discrimination in Childhood

We're interested in measuring how well children can see colour and how this compares to patterns we see in adult data. Adults are worse at telling apart different intensities of certain colours, and this lines up with how often those colours are found in our visual world. We want to know if this is a gradual process that happens over childhood as we spend more time in the world. To take part in this study you'll need to download an app onto your iPad, and then your child will respond by pressing the colourful spots that appear on the display. Please note this study will start running from January 2021 but you can sign up to take part now.

photo of app


Impact of Colour Vision on Wellbeing and Education

We are looking for 11-16 year old boys to help us investigate the effect of colour vision in wellbeing and education. This is an online iPad study involving some questionnaires about school engagement and wellbeing and playing a fun colour game. Participation takes 20 minutes. If you are eligible and interested in taking part, you can particpate here.

eduwell voucher poster




Current Projects:


erc logoCOLOURMIND is a 5 year project which aims to understand how human colour perception is related to how we perceive our colourful environment. The natural world has lots of visual characteristics and patterns - for example, the way the tree branches or how snowflakes are shaped (often called 'fractal patterns'), and there is a blue and yellow bias in what we see in nature, as it is lit up by either yellow sunlight or blue skylight. As adults, we seem to be tuned in to these patterns. For example, adults will prefer to look at images which match the patterns found in natural scenes, and our ability to tell colours apart is aligned to the blue-yellow pattern found in many natural scenes. This project aims to help us understand if the way that babies and children see and understand the world is also aligned with natural scenes, or if it's something we learn from seeing the environment around us as we grow up.



colourspot logoThe Sussex Baby Lab have developed an app called ‘ColourSpot’ which identifies the risk of children having colour vision deficiency (colour-blindness). Colour vision deficiency (CVD) affects approximately 1 in 12 boys and 1 in 200 girls. It is a common genetic visual disorder that is often not detected until late childhood. Our aim is to use ColourSpot as an easy, quick and reliable test for colour-blindness for young children. 

We are currently testing the app on toddlers and children to see how well it works. We aim to release this app for download for parents, teachers and optometrists in late 2019.

child playing colourspot

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Etta Loves Collaboration

Etta Loves Logo transparentThe Sussex Baby Lab has formed a collaboration with Etta Loves, a science-led baby product company. Together, we want to understand how babies perceive patterns and how preference for particular patterns develop. We know that the infant visual system is receptive and responsive to patterns; even newborns can see and distinguish them. We also know that pattern vision is of crucial importance in visual development because patterns are an important source of information about the environment; indeed, babies require patterned input for proper cognitive development. Now, using eye-tracking, brain imaging, and image analysis, we are conducting experiments to investigate how visual perception is adapted to the statistical qualities of the environment during development, and the role that this plays in the development of infant aesthetics. We will apply our scientific findings to optimise pattern and image design for Etta Loves, to ultimately help support the visual development of babies.

Etta Loves Dalmation play mat 2Etta Loves Leopard BabyEtta Loves Eyes Muslin Caregiver ChildEtta Loves Dandelion Muslin Caregiver Child




Past Projects:


CATEGORIES was a large European Research Funded project which investigated the orign of colour categories, and their impact on how we see colour in infants, toddlers, and adults. Although colour is a continuum, we break it up into discrete categories (e.g. 'red' 'green'), and there had been much debate around how these categories are formed, and how they might influence our colour perception. One of the studies we carried out showed that infants who don't yet know the words for colour can group colours together in a similar way to adults, and have at least five colour categories (red, yellow, green, blue, and purple). These colour categories seem to be shaped by the way the biology behind our colour vision works. We also ran an ERP study (a measure of electrical activity in the brain) to better understand how babies respond to 'unique hues' (a really pure example of that colour e.g. a blue which has no red or green in it), and a study on how toddlers learn the words for different colours.

To learn more, please read:  Biological origins of color categorization

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This project looked at the effect of colour on children's cognitive performance. Some evidence suggests that colour affects adult performance on cognitive tasks. For example, the colour of the front cover of an IQ test can affect results (e.g., Elliot & Maier, 2007). However, can colour have similar effects on children's performance on cognitive tasks in a classroom setting?

The effect of colour on performance on the tasks was measured in 8-9 year old children. It was found that the colour red significantly decreased performance by around 6% on overal test performance relative to a grey baseline. These findings may suggest that colour has a subtle influence over performance on educational-related tasks. 

To learn more, please read: The effect of colour on children's cognitive performance