Information for Parents

The lab conducts research on cognitive development in infants and toddlers. Our studies focus on three main questions.

--Some studies focus on what children know about objects and how they come to have this knowledge. For example, we ask how infants learn that a tall object cannot be hidden behind a short screen, that a wide object cannot be lowered inside a narrow container, and that a toy rabbit cannot change into a toy car when under a cover.

--Other studies focus on what children know about people and other intentional agents. For example, we ask whether infants and toddlers realize that a person can have a false belief about an object’s location, and whether they expect individuals to be cooperative and fair in their interactions with each other.

--Yet other studies focus on what children know about animals. For example, we ask how infants learn to identify animals, and whether they expect all animals to have specific properties.

What is a typical study like?

Our procedures are very simple, safe, and fun: most children really enjoy them! Prior to the pandemic, we had been conducting two main types of studies, looking-time and action studies.

--In our looking-time studies, the child sits on a parent’s lap in front of a small stage and watches a series of events; assistants monitor how long the child looks at each event. For example, in a study on infants’ knowledge about support, an experimenter’s hand holds a box in midair and releases it; the box either falls (expected event) or remains floating in midair (unexpected event). Our reasoning is that if the infant understands that an object cannot remain stable without support, then he or she will be surprised by the unexpected event and will look longer at it than at the expected event.

--In our action studies, the child sits on a parent’s lab at a table and is asked to perform simple actions on objects. For example, the child may be asked to search for an object that is hidden behind a screen, or to select the picture that goes along with a story.

As of Fall 2021, we have resumed running some of our looking-time studies in the lab!  We have implemented very strict safety protocols to ensure we are providing the safest possible setting for any in-lab participation in our studies.  Our staff are fully vaccinated and masked, and will only be present for sessions with participants if they have also received a negative PCR result no earlier than the day before the session.  For our full safety protocol, please email the lab manager, who will be happy to send you the complete document for your review!

We also have a variety of online studies that you can participate over Zoom from the comfort and convenience of your home!  All you need is a stable internet connection, and a device with a webcam and speakers for sound – sorry, no smartphones or tablets, our online studies just don’t work well with their settings.

How can I get involved?

We are always in need of more participants to help us explore children’s cognitive development! If you would like to participate with your child in one of our studies, please contact us at (217) 333-5988 or by e-mail at We would be very happy to hear from you!

We currently offer in-lab appointments on Monday afternoon/early evenings, and Tuesday mornings. We have a supervised play area for siblings who may accompany you to the appointment. Free parking is provided, and we offer a book, onesie/t-shirt with our lab logo, or $10-$25 (depending on the distance from your home) to help cover your travel expenses. We also award keepsake Certificates of Accomplishment to children after they complete different phases of our studies.

Online appointments are available at a variety of morning and afternoon/early evening times, 7 days a week!

The lab tests different research questions with different age groups. Each study is independent of the others, so you can participate just once or you can come as often as once per month for more studies!


How do I get to the lab? Where do I park?

To find directions to the lab and our parking spaces, please view our contact page by
Clicking Here.