We’ve visited the Liverpool Language Lab before to see what they do and find out how we could get involved. When we last posted about it (https://growliverpool.home.blog/2019/05/03/liverpool-language-lab/) Phoebe was only 6 months old. 4 months on and Phoebe was asked to take part in a new study.
Infants are learning important things about language as early as they can hear it, well before they start to show signs of understanding or saying many words. For example, we already know that just hearing words or seeing people point to or look at objects can influence how much infants pay attention to and learn about those objects. In this experiment the Language Lab are testing how and why these communicative behaviours influence how babies’ learn about their world.
The more people that volunteer for the study the further the research can go and so if you’re thinking of volunteering, here’s exactly what to expect.
With all studies for the Language Lab you sign up to the database initially, then if a relevant study comes up the Language Lab will contact you with details of how to participate. The original dates I was given didn’t work for us and the team were really flexible around changing them to my days off and times Phoebe was available.
In advance of the date you attend you get sent a questionnaire about your child’s current language level. This is a series of tick boxes and takes no more than 20-30 mins depending how advanced your child’s language is. You can also complete this on the day if you prefer. Paperwork can often be the boring bit of things like this but as I am a bit of a geek I actually loved going through the lists and seeing what Phoebe could and couldn’t do so far.
The Language Lab is based in the Eleanor Rathbone building in the City Centre and is relatively easy to find. All directions are sent out in advance and you get a number to call when you arrive so that someone can come and meet you. The Liverpool Language Lab will reimburse you for your time and travel. For this particular study we received £10, and Phoebe also got to take home a Language Lab certificate as a memento (ours is slightly crumpled as Phoebe was so excited to get her hands on it!). The team at the Language Lab are really welcoming and the room where the study was taking place was set out with toys for when Phoebe arrived. She had a little play and got settled in while I completed the consent forms.
As with all ‘best laid plans’ I had timed the session around when I thought Phoebe would be most awake and alert but a swimming lesson, lunch and no naps later she was a sleepy little sausage. As with any research involving babies and toddlers these factors are taken into consideration, so don’t worry that your baby might affect the study if they’re not at their best.
The study takes place with your baby in a car seat focusing on a screen, they have a little sticker placed on their forehead (This just allows the eye tracker to follow your baby’s eye movement without bothering your little one) and you can sit alongside them throughout. During the study they present your baby with different objects as they disappear and reappear behind a screen, sometimes the objects will be presented with a noise. Using an eye tracker they can then measure your baby’s eye-gaze abilities to see if they remember these objects when they reappear later on. Eye-tracking is a safe, non-invasive method of recording looking behaviours, and can tell us a lot about what babies understand about the world around them. Phoebe was so comfortable she almost nodded off!
It’s nice to know that less than an hour out of our day will help support this research into child language development and I would urge anyone with the time to volunteer to do so. The Language Lab hope that the results from this study will help them understand what babies learn about words and objects from this early age, so that they can go on to name these objects at a later age.
Interested families can join the volunteer database here: http://www.language05.co.uk/take-part.html
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