Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Donating My Children to Science

After Flower was born I received an invitation in the mail from the local University asking if I wanted to sign my child up for any upcoming studies.  I talked it over with Husband, and while he was disappointed I would not receive monetary compensation, I thought it would be neat to have her included in childhood research.  I responded positively to the invitation. 

In college I took child development classes and we learned about studies that were done with children to discover how they learned, developed, etc.  I remember watching one video of babies learning depth perception.  They had a ledge with a plexiglass over it, and the babies wouldn't crawl off of the ledge, even though it had the plexiglass over it.  It was interesting to watch.  How cool that Flower could be part of something like that.

A couple of months later I received a phone call from the University saying they were doing an experiment with children and would Flower like to be part of it?  Yes! I don't remember the exact phrasing, but it was something about facial recognition of certain animals.  Flower would be on my lap the entire time and I could stop if we didn't feel comfortable.   

A week later I brought Princess and Flower to the research center and checked in.  We were led to a waiting room that looked like a toy shop had spit up in it.  Princess ran straight to a little car that she could ride and had a blast zooming around.  The center was nice enough to provide childcare for Princess while Flower was participating in her experiment.  I thought that was really neat, and was not the least bit worried about Princess because she was clearly having a blast.

The girl in charge (she looked like a college student, and had two interns following her around) explained forms to me and I signed a few things (they would not release any of my info in any of the results, everything is completely confidential, I could stop at any time, etc.).  However, Flower wasn't ready yet (she was sound asleep in my Moby), so they said I could hang out and wait in the waiting room with Princess for a little bit longer.  Of course, the moment they walked out the door she woke up.

They came back and Flower and I followed them down a hallway and into an office that had been divided into two sections.  On one side there was a chair set up in front of a television screen.  On the other side of a divider was a desk with a couple of computers.  One computer would control what came onto the television screen and the other was connected to a video recorder to record what the Princess did.

Flower was supposed to sit on my lap and look at the television screen.  I went in and sat down, and Flower started crying.  We got back up and walked out (the room was dark, except for the television screen so I think she was frightened).  She was ok with me holding her in the hallway, so we went back in again.  Nope, same reaction.  I took her out again and the girl led me to an adjacent office where I could sit in with Flower to try to comfort her.  I was thinking maybe this wasn't going to happen after all.  The girl gave me a survey to fill out (usually the subjects fill them out after the experiment, but for the sake of time I did it then).  It asked questions about household pets and Flower's interactions with them.  The girl gave Flower a rattle to play with, I nursed her, and that helped calm her down.

Round three worked.  We sat down and Flower seemed interested in the screen.  It helped that they had changed the screen to pictures of other babies (previously it had been dancing hippos).  They put a headband on Flower that would track her head movement and feed it into the neighboring computer.  I got to wear blackout glasses so I wouldn't see what she was seeing (they said babies react to what their mothers do, even subtle movements, so they didn't want her reacting based on me).  Then they started the experiment (they showed me the video of us after it was completed so I could see what she had seen and how she reacted).

They started by pinpointing where she was looking by having her follow a colorful dot upon the screen.  Somehow the computer was able to do this by monitoring the tilt of her head.  Then they put various pictures of faces of dogs, cats, and monkeys on the screen to monitor where on the pictures she would look.  Any time she turned her head to look elsewhere (like around the room), they would play some music or a video clip of a cartoon to get her attention again.  Then she was done.

It was really neat to see the experiment after it was completed.  I could see what part of each picture she was looking at.  They said she did really well.  I'm not sure what that means, but I'll take it.  Then they gave her a certificate of participation and let me choose a toy for her to take home (I chose a touch and feel animal book). I dragged Princess away from the room of fun, and we went home.

I'm glad we were able to participate in the experiment, and I'm pretty sure I'll go again if they ask.  I am also relieved that we were able to do it.  Third time was a charm, apparently.  I was pleasantly surprised by the certificate and the book, but now I have something to put in her (nonexistent) baby book. 


 

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