Current studies

Below is a list of some of our current studies at the lab. Please check out the “Contact Us” tab if you are interested in signing up your child to participate in one of our studies.

Bimodal Emotion Discrimination 

The goal of this study is to better understand how infants can distinguish between emotions using emotional voices and faces. Specifically, we are interested in learning how 9-month-old infants can distinguish between similar negative emotions (such as sad and angry) by integrating emotional sounds and facial expressions. Your baby would do a short task that takes about 10 minutes where we present a short audio clip of one emotional sound (e.g., happy, angry, sad), followed by a pair of female faces on a screen. While your baby is viewing the face pairs, we will track where your baby looks using a camera on a wireless eye tracking system. The study involves a one-time visit to our lab located on the Ryerson campus, scheduled at your convenience. The study would take approximately 1 hour, start to finish, and you would be with your child at all times during the study.

Emotion Project

The goal of this study is to explore how emotion understanding develops in the first year of life. We are currently recruiting infants at 3.5 months to take part in a 4-part study (visits at 7, 12, and 18 months). During this study, we do lots of fun tasks with babies all to help us answer the larger question of emotion development. There are eye-tracking tasks, where babies watch a series of faces, interaction tasks where you and your baby wear head-mounted cameras so we can see the world from your perspectives, wear an EEG cap that measures brain activity while babies watch their mom’s face. We also see how babies regulate their emotions during a still-face task, where moms are asked to express a neutral expression. There are lots of other tasks that we do in this project and if your baby is almost 3.5 months, check out our “Contact Us” tab to find out more details.


Adult face memory project: “Wait, that is the same person?”

Recognizing a face is hard! Two photos of the same person can look very different and photos of two different people can look very similar. Recent studies show that this phenomenon is even more evident when viewing pictures of other-race faces, a face category in which people are typically less familiar with. This suggests that compared to our memory for own-race faces, our memory for other-race faces is typically impaired. In the current study, we are examining how adults’ daily interaction with individuals from different ethnic groups shape their ability to memorise own- and other-race faces, and how adults’ memory for own- and other-race faces maintain even when the appearance of the face changes in different ways (e.g., shows a different expression; from a different viewing angle). This study is recruiting young adults (17 years of age and older) for a 1-hour visit to our lab.

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Variability Project: Why does a baby have trouble recognizing her dad after he shaves?

Successfully recognizing your face despite a wide range of natural variations in your appearance (different expressions, hairstyle, make-up, lighting condition, viewing angles) is not an easy task for your babies. This may explain why some babies have trouble recognizing their dads after they shave their beard, or recognizing their moms after their makeover. Despite being hard, acquiring the ability to recognize faces across variability in appearance is critical to infants’ development of social cognition (e.g., interaction, understanding emotions). In the current study, we are investigating how natural variations in appearance influence infants’ face recognition, and how infants develop their ability to learn newly encountered faces from variability in appearance. Using eye-tracking, we are specifically examining how infants allocate their attention when they attend to faces with lots of variability in appearance. This study is recruiting 6- to 12-month-old infants to participate in a 1-hour visit to our lab.

Emotion Discrimination in the child’s brain

The goal of this study is to figure out whether children can tell the difference between different emotions. We have tested both infants and adults for this study and now we are seeking a sample of young children aged 5-10. Adults are very good at differentiating between positive emotions (such as knowing when a person is happy or surprised) and also negative emotions (angry or sad). This is a part of a larger study where we are interested in seeing when babies are able to tell the difference between these similar emotions or if they treat them the same. The way we will figure this out is by showing participants a silent video of adult faces expressing different emotions (like happy, sad, angry, or surprised) while we measure the natural response in their brain using a cap with tiny sensors on it. It looks like a little swim cap and works very similarly to the way a microphone picks up your voice.

“Horizontal Faces Study” Project

What kind of information do babies use to recognize and tell apart different faces? We think that when faces are hard to recognize, such as when they are blurry, there is special information still there that helps us work out the person’s identity. In the current study, we want to know if that information helps babies tell the difference between faces that are hard to recognize. To figure this out, we will show babies blurry pictures of their mom’s face and an unfamiliar face on a computer screen, and see which face babies like to look at more. If they look at their mom’s face more than the unfamiliar face, that will tell us babies can recognize and tell the difference between identities even when faces are hard to recognize. This study is recruiting 2- to 3-month-old infants to participate in a 1-hour visit to our lab.

“I SEE” Spycam Project

Have you ever wondered what the world was like, from your baby’s perspective?  We do! We think what babies see will relates to what they learn and how their brain develops.  We also want to know how this changes as they get older.  To find this out, we’re using small, light, cameras mounted on fuzzy head-bands to record the world from a baby’s perspective.  Families spend a week with the camera, recording their baby’s typical world.  After the week, they pop by to Ryerson where we show their baby lots of pictures of smiling, happy faces. How the infants respond to these faces will let us know what type of faces the baby prefers, whether they can tell the difference between 2 similar faces, and how their brain is responding to the faces. We’re looking for 3-, 6-, and 9-month-old infants to participate in this study.

Infants’ Ability to Recognize Facial Expressions of Emotion

An infant’s ability to recognize facial expressions of emotion is extremely important for the development of early interaction, the ability to regulate emotions, caregiver relationships, and later social skills. In the current study, we are investigating when infants are able to recognize different facial expressions of emotion, and whether it’s easier to recognize emotions when they are expressed by familiar people (e.g., mom and dad) compared to unfamiliar people. We are currently recruiting 6- and 9-month-old infants for this study.

Cross-cultural emotion recognition in children

Do children show cross-cultural differences when recognizing emotions? Recent studies have found that individuals are more accurate at recognizing emotions when expressed by members of their own culture rather than members not belonging to their cultural group but it is unclear when this own-culture advantage develops. The goal of this study aims to address this question by exploring children’s accuracy when recognizing emotions (happy, sad, angry, fearful and neutral) expressed by people of various ethnic backgrounds (South Asian and Caucasian) and cultural backgrounds (people born and raised in Canada and people born and raised abroad). The way we do this is by playing a fun computer game, in which the child sees a face and has to guess what emotion the face is expressing. This study is currently recruiting 6-10 year old South Asian children.