University of Sussex researchers set to recruit ‘baby scientists’

Parents and researchers in the Baby Lab with baby "scientists" for the day, Willow (left) and Rémy

A research group at the University of Sussex is looking to enlist baby scientists to help with an exciting new project.

The call-out for babies comes from the Sussex Baby Lab,1 where researchers study tiny tots at play to find out what babies can understand, how they experience the world around them and how they develop and learn.

Participating babies and their parents will be asked to attend the new lab, decked out in baby-friendly colours and furnishings, to play specially designed games and take part in fun activities while researchers observe how the babies act and behave, or record what the babies look at.

Psychologist Dr Anna Franklin, who heads the Sussex Baby Lab, says: “It may look like it’s just a lot of fun, but the babies are actually helping researchers answer a range of important questions such as: ‘how long can babies remember something for?’ ‘Can babies recognise their mother’s face?’ Or even ‘can babies count?’”

The Baby Lab’s current project, the ‘Rainbow Project’,2 aims to discover how babies see colour. To find out, researchers will need to study around 400 babies over a two-year period, so they are looking for babies in the Sussex area to take part.

During a 30-minute visit babies will be shown a series of colours while the researchers record what they look at to find out whether they recognise changes in colour. 

Dr Franklin says: “We know from previous research that contrary to popular belief, babies do see colour, even when they are newborns. What we want to know is how good babies are at noticing changes in colour, and in particular we want to know whether babies group colours in a similar way to adults." 

Notes for Editors

To register your baby visit the Baby Lab web site; get in touch via phone: 01273 873 300; by email:, or see regular news updates for the Baby Lab on Twitter.

1 The Sussex Baby Lab is part of the newly-built Sussex Child Research Hub – a suite of rooms designed for research on child development, including work on understanding anxiety in children (see the CATT Lab).  Along with the Baby Lab, there are other research teams who do their research in the hub, and children of all ages visit the space to take part in research that aims to understand a range of issues such as anxiety in children or how toddlers learn words (e.g., see the and WORD Lab). 

The hub has several play areas for children of different ages where we can also explain the research to parents, along with multiple rooms with state-of-the-art facilities for doing research with babies and children.  Up to nine or ten families may visit the hub each day. 

2 The Rainbow Project is part of a bigger project – the five-year, European Research Council-funded CATEGORIES project, which aims to establish the extent to which speakers of different languages see colour differently. The CATEGORIES project is led by The Sussex Colour Group, which is also headed by Dr Franklin. 

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

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Last updated: Tuesday, 5 March 2013