Projects

Children’s understanding of what it means to say ‘sorry’!

Apologies are important for overcoming interpersonal conflict and help to restore social harmony. When we apologise for a wrongdoing, we are effectively promising to behave better in future. This project seeks to identify at what age this understanding of implied better conduct develops in children. The study is completed over Zoom and lasts around 15 minutes. In it, children listen to short stories of individuals apologising but continuing to do wrong and observing how they respond. If your child participated in our ‘Apologies’ study earlier this year that’s alright, they can also take part in this next phase of exploration of how this important social skill develops.

If you are the parent or caregiver of a 5- or 6-year-old and would like to learn more or take part, please contact Owen Waddington (owen.waddington@manchester.ac.uk) for more information.

 

How do children reason with gesture?

This online study aims to learn about how children aged 3 and 5 understand and use gestures in their reasoning. When we solve problems together, we explain our reasoning to one another. In our explanations we talk about the evidence that helped us form a belief or conclusion. We can communicate our reasons verbally, through talking about the evidence (e.g., “the dog must be in that house, because there are pawprints outside the house.”). But our reasons can also be communicated non-verbally, through gestures, (e.g., one can justify their belief, “the dog must be in that house”, by pointing to muddy pawprints in front of a house). We would like to find out whether children can communicate their reasons using gestures. The study will take place in one 30 minute session over Zoom. Participants will watch some cartoon clips and play some games about them. If your child took part in our previous online reasoning study (“How do children reason?”) then they can take part in this one, too! If you are interested, please contact: kirstie.hartwell@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk

 

Children’s delay of gratification

This study will investigate how long 5- and 6-year-olds can wait for a food reward in a social context. Delay of gratification is the ability to hold back from eating a reward now in order to obtain a bigger reward in the future. This ability has been linked to better life outcomes such as educational attainment and is a key component of working with others. The primary goal is to see whether children can better inhibit eating a treat if another child promises to do the same. If the children delay gratification, they will get a second treat (e.g. cookie). The study will involve a 20-minute session over Zoom, including a setup and discussion with parents. The activity itself is 10 minutes long. If you are interested or want more information, please contact: leonor.santanamirandagoncalves@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk

 

How do young children evaluate apologies?

Humans are inter-dependent. Our survival depends on our reliance on one another and our ability to work together. When social relationships are damaged, it is important that we repair those relationships. One of the most common and effective ways to do this is to apologise for our misbehaviours. In this study, we will investigate how children aged 5 evaluate apologies by two people who misbehaved towards a third person. We are interested in learning whether children excuse the transgressors depending on the kind of apology. As a result, some children will hear apologies (e.g. “I’m sorry”) by the transgressors and some of the apologies will be accompanied by excuses (e.g., “I’m sorry, but I thought we were finished”). The study will take place via Zoom, for more information about how to take part contact  Laura.Boundy@manchester.ac.uk 

 

What do children understand about promises?

Girls sat at school table talkingThis online study aims to learn what children understand about moral behaviours, especially what they think about people who make a promise to behave in a particular way, but afterward break this promise. As adults, we tend to think that people should act how they say they will act, and we disapprove of people who don’t. At some age, children must acquire the tendency to do this, as well but we know little about how this occurs. Here, our goal is to learn more about how and when this tendency develops.
If you have a child aged between four and seven, who is fluent in English, then we would love to hear from you! The study would involve a 15-minute session with the researcher over Zoom, where your child would listen to a story and answer some questions by choosing between two pictures. If you are interested, please email the researcher Laura Boundy (Laura.Boundy@manchester.ac.uk)

Children’s understanding of comparative words

In this online study we explore how children aged between 3 to 8 years learn the meaning of comparative words (e.g., ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller’).  To do this the study introduces children to our friendly robot, Lexon, who needs help learning these types of word. Using pictures of different objects we ask our participants to tell Lexon which object matches the word (like bigger) that Lexon wants to learn. The study will take place via Zoom and we are recruiting now! For more information about how to take part contact Dr Alissa Ferry (Alissa.Ferry@manchester.ac.uk)

 

The development of young children’s reasoning

Reasoning is an important part of human thinking and social interaction. For example, when making a joint decision, individuals may disagree with one another. Therefore, they need to compare and evaluate one another’s reasons for their beliefs in order to reach an agreement. During development, children learn this skill by producing and evaluating reasons in conversation. So far, we know that school-aged children are able to reason with their peers in this way.  However, we do not know much about how reasoning emerges and develops from a young age. Therefore, our study explores whether children aged 3 and 5 can provide reasons for their beliefs during joint decision-making. Each child will take part in a collaborative ‘hide-and-seek’ style game, where they work together with a partner to figure out where a toy is hiding. We are currently running this study in schools and nurseries in the local area. For more information, please contact Kirstie Hartwell (Kirstie.Hartwell@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk).

 

Children’s requests for help

Son Helping Father To Prepare Vegetables For Meal In Kitchen - ImageAs they age, we know children start to selectively help others (e.g. when it is needed). But remarkably, little is known about whether young children are also selective when it is them asking for help. What do they think about when they request something? Is it all me, me, me or do they consider how their requests might impact on others? Owen Waddington, a PhD student here at Manchester, is hoping to understand more about how preschool children evaluate their requests for help.

Data collection for this study is now complete and analysis is ongoing. Any queries may be directed to Owen (owen.waddington@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk).

 

Children’s language of emotion

This project aims to find out about 5-13-year-old children’s understanding of emotion words, and how it changes across this age group in typically developing children. We will be carrying out a few language based tasks over Zoom, investigating the effectiveness of some novel measures of the language of emotion. The purpose of this research is to prepare for a larger study that will compare the same language skills in typically developing children and Autistic children. This will help us to better support clinical populations through building our understanding of disordered language of emotion development. For more information please contact Mari Hamano (mari.hamano@student.manchester.ac.uk), who is working with Dr Jenny Freed and Dr Alexandra Sturrock

 

How do toddlers explore?

We know that toddlers spend a lot of their time exploring the world around them as they play and learning as they go. In this project we’re interested in whether the way toddlers explore is linked to their language development. We will be using play sessions and eye tracking to understand how toddlers prefer to learn in everyday play environments, and how we can support language development through play. If you’re the parent or caregiver of a toddler aged between 18 months and three years, please contact Katie Twomey (katherine.twomey@manchester.ac.uk) to find out more. 

Category naming in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Children working on a puzzle togetherThis project is a chance for adults to take part! There is a growing awareness that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) use language in a different way to typically developing children. In particular, children with ASD may be more likely to use unusual words compared to children without ASD. These subtle differences in language use can identify a child as different to their peers, which could contribute to difficulties making friends and feelings of well-being. In a larger study, children with and without ASD were asked to name examples of different categories. In the current study we are asking adults to rate these words for how typical they are of their category in a short online questionnaire. To find out how to take part, please contact Katie Twomey (katherine.twomey@manchester.ac.uk).

 

What do babies learn best from?

This project aims to discover how we can best support young babies’ learning. In this study we show babies a series of pictures on a computer screen and record where they look using an eye tracker. Where, and for how long, babies look at the pictures lets us discover what they enjoy learning from, and how much they learn. If you’re the parent or caregiver of a baby who is older than six months old, please contact Katie Twomey (katherine.twomey@manchester.ac.uk) to find out more.