How shapes can tell if a baby has good morals
WINNIPEG -- A study happening at the University of Manitoba’s Baby Language Lab is using basic shapes to see if infants can recognize right from wrong.
Anna Anderson and her nine and a half month old son Richard participated in it already.
“He’s going to be shown multiple shapes that are being nice to each other or they're pushing each other,” said Anderson.
The project is replicating work done at a different lab.
“There’s a series of results that show that infants as young as about six months will tend to want to touch or play with shape that’s acting in a nice way versus a shape that’s acting in a mean way,” said Melanie Soderstrom, an associate professor in the department of psychology at the U of M.
The research includes showing series of videos to babies five to 10 months old featuring three different shapes: a circle, a triangle and a square.
In the videos one shape is attempting to go up a hill, another pushes the first one down, while the third helps the first one get to the top.
“They are very simple forms and simple movements but there is meaning behind those movements,” said Soderstrom.
Soderstrom explained the research is being done at her lab again to test the original results and to add to the existing body of evidence.
“The reason we want to do that is because then you can get a lot more data and a lot more babies on any given study that’s an important finding,” she said.
The study itself is being conducted by honours student Megan Gornik.
She has been trained in a very specific protocol, so when she presents a board with two shapes for the baby to choose from, she doesn’t affect his or her choice.
“You have to make sure you’re not moving the board when you ask them, you’re not moving either of the shapes so that you don’t bias their choice,” said Gornik.
Gornik has not yet analysed the data she’s collected, but she has noticed that babies do have a preference for a specific shape.
“They are very certain,” she said. “They want this shape none of the other ones, this shape is the one I want.”
So far 10 test babies have participated and Gornik has collected results from 10 more for her thesis.
To participate, more information can be found on the Baby Language Lab Facebook page.