Research tools and methods

Computational modeling

Computational modeling involves building a mathematical model designed to simulate a particular human behavior, and then running that model on a computer. This technique allows us to explore and visualize the functional organization of mental events that we can’t directly observe.

On-screen eyetracking

Table-mounted eye-trackers (manufactured by Tobii) allow us to determine where on a computer screen the child’s gaze is fixated at any given moment. We use these eye trackers in conjunction with custom-written computer scripts that allow an infant to interact with pictures, sounds, and movies on-screen with their gaze.

Touchscreen tablets

We use touchscreen tablets to measure the preferences and responses of pre-literate (and sometimes pre-verbal) children in an engaging and interactive format. In these studies, children typically play games on the tablets. We analyze their touch behavior using a variety of types of computational models in order to study how they explore, learn, and make decisions.

Eye-tracking in the world

We also use a set of head-mounted eye-trackers (manufactured by Positive Science) to study how young children and adults allocate their visual attention in the world. One camera on each set records the wearer’s field-of-view. A second camera captures the wearer’s eye. Together, the two views allow us to determine where a subject visually fixates in the scene.


We recently had the opportunity to take a trip to the lowlands of Bolivia in order to study how children explore and learn across different cultures, in collaboration with TedLab (MIT), colala (Rochester), and CBIDSI (Centro Boliviano De Investigación Y Desarrollo Socio Integral). Our studies test children from an indiginous group known as the Tsimane'.

Behavioral tasks in non-human learners

In addition to our work with human children, we are also involved in collaborations that investigate information-seeking behavior using eye-tracking and free-viewing methods in non-human learners. We explore what aspects of attention, exploration, and curiosity are shared across species, and empirically test alternative hypotheses that could explain differences. // Rochester Baby Lab + Rochester Kid Lab // Brain & Cognitive Sciences // University of Rochester // Rochester, NY