I am broadly interested in understanding the nature and motivation of prosocial behavior. Currently, I am investigating whether young infants have the capacity and motivation to help prior to the emergence of helping behavior. Would infants help if given an opportunity to do so that does not require coordination of motor skills? To probe this question, I have engineered a novel gaze-contingent eye-tracking paradigm whereby infants can “help” an animated agent by looking at a specific place on screen. Data collection for this study is on-going.

An example of what my gaze-contingent helping paradigm looks like. In this test trial, the infant can “help” by looking at the button, which causes the wall to move backward so that the agent can reach its goal.

While in-person data-collection is on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions, I am also currently working on an online-based project looking at the impact of different types of framings on children’s endorsement of behavior. Are children more likely to wear a mask when told it protects themselves, or someone else? To probe this, I present children with hypothetical situations about aliens and interview them over Zoom.

An example of the aliens children are presented with. These “Furpees” have spikes on their bodies that either hurt themselves or other Furpees, and children will be asked to decide whether or not the Furpee should wear uncomfortable caps on their spikes to prevent this harm.

If you have an infant (newborn-2 years) or school-aged child (4-10 years) and would like to participate in either of these studies, you can sign up to be part of our database using this online form.