THE INFANCY CENTRE FOR RESEARCH AT YORK UNIVERSITY
By: Jean Varghese, Ph.D. Candidate
The Infancy Centre for Research at York University was established in 1991 by Professor Maria Legerstee. Since then, a growing body of research has emerged from the centre. Such research has made important contributions to the ever-expanding knowledge of infant development. Our studies have been featured in magazines, newspapers and on national radio programs and in scientific papers, journals, and books by Professor Legerstee.
Only forty years ago, infants were seen as completely helpless and undeveloped human beings. Since the 1960s, numerous studies in various areas have shown that infants come into the world equipped with many abilities that grow and develop rapidly within the first few years of life. Of course, moms and dads have always had some idea of these abilities. But at a scientific level, it was hard to assert such conclusions without systematic investigation. Such investigations are difficult to do with participants who cannot speak to tell us what they feel or think! However, with clever experimental games and simple observations of parent-infant interactions, researchers have been able to glean a large amount of information from these complex little minds.
At the Infancy Centre for Research, we are interested in the development of communication, emotion and attention in the first three years of life. The design of our studies usually includes free-play and structured games with toys.
Talking to Mommy at 3 months. (Mother-Infant interaction videotaped by Professor Legerstee at the Infancy Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany).
Markova and Legerstee (2006), Developmental Psychology
Playing and mucking about with toys at 5 months filmed at the homes of the infants
Infants are attuned to human faces and voices from birth. Between 5 - 8 months, they recognize their own face and voice, and know they sound and look differently from dolls.
(Legerstee et al. Child Development, 1998)
Sessions are videotaped for later coding of behaviours. We look at simple behaviours that already exist within the infant's repertoire, such as looking, smiling, vocalizing, reaching and pointing
12-month-old infant pointing to redirect attention of woman who looks the other way.
(Legerstee & Barillas, 2003)
Legerstee, Barac, Skrainka & Zucal (2008)
Parental skills scaffold Pretense
15-month-old infants point to share interesting aspects of the environment with others.
Legerstee, Fahy, Blake, Fisher & Markova, 2004
Infants usually look longer at events that are new versus events that are familiar. Also, infants look longer at unexpected events than at expected events. Such results show us that infants do not just passively observe their environment in terms of random events, but very quickly begin to organize information and develop expectations about how people act, how objects function, and also what people like and dislike
Between 9 and 12 months infants use people's emotions to infer what people desire, because they are surprised when the Unhappy Person picks up the object, but not when the Happy person does. These findings are reported in Legerstee and Barna, (2005), Cognition and Emotion.
Mothers and infants usually come to the centre for the studies
(see http://www.yorku.ca for directions).
Main entrance 'Vari Hall' leading into Central Square
Reception area of the Infancy Centre at Central Square 160
Office area of the Infancy Centre for Research
All studies conducted at the Infancy Centre for Research are approved by the Ethics Committee at York University and the Ethics Committee of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. All studies conducted at the centre are funded by the federal government in the form of a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to Professor Legerstee. Mothers are asked to read and sign a consent form at the beginning of each session. The consent form contains a brief synopsis of the session, including the approximate duration of the session. The consent form also clearly states that mothers may withdraw from the study at any point in time without any prejudice either at the present time or in the future. Mothers are debriefed at the end of the session.
Parents who have visited the Infancy Centre for Research most often leave knowing something new about their baby's development. We also provide parents with a copy of the videotaped session as a keepsake of this vital contribution of time and effort and a record of their baby's development. The videotape is sent to parents at the end of the study, along with a summary of results. No individual mother or infant is ever identified in reporting results. Such results may be reported at conferences or published in refereed journals. In any instance where we would like to use a clip of videotape for demonstration purposes, mothers must have provided us with permission on the consent form. All raw data (e.g. videotapes, questionnaires, etc.) collected at the centre for Researchis strictly confidential and is destroyed within 5 years.
Sessions are scheduled at parents' convenience and parking is free. We provide parents with a parking pass which they give to the parking attendant on their way out of the parking lot.
At the Infancy Centre for Research, we appreciate the continued support of parents who take the time and effort to further the study of infant development. The study of typical infant development is extremely important in helping to form solutions to problematic development. In establishing the norms of infant development, we are aiding clinicians, pediatricians and other child-care workers in their care of children with special requirements, while contributing to the continued accumulation of knowledge on infant development.
Infancy Centre for Research
161 Central Square
Phone: 416-736-2100 (Ext. 30110)