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.


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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Cosatto Science Partnership

cosatto logoThe Sussex Baby Lab have formed a scientific partnership with Cosatto who make colourful patterned prams, pushchairs and other baby products. We are conducting studies to learn more about how babies see and respond to colourful patterns. Our findings will be shared with Cosatto who will design and refine their products so they are optimised for how babies see, think and learn.




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