How do infants begin to make sense of their world? Researchers at UW-Madison are actively focusing on the fascinating developmental questions that arise when one considers the newest members of our species. The issues on which our research programs center pertain to ancient psychological questions and philosophical debates, which we seek to better understand via observational, experimental, and psychophysiological studies with infant participants.
-Is the infant's world a "blooming, buzzing, confusion" (as per William James), or do infants enter the world prepared to organize and make sense of their physical and social environments?
-How can we disentangle the contributions of nature and nurture, and then understand how they interact during early development?
-What changes over development, and what remains constant?
-Can we characterize the mechanisms that subserve developmental change and maintain developmental stability?
-What are the implications of early development for later adaptation or dysfunction?
Within the core faculty of the Psychology Department, we have specialists in the three core areas of infant perception, language and cognition (Saffran), and socioemotional development (Goldsmith). Faculty from other departments also influence the education of our graduate students, and UW-Madison has substantial strengths in infancy research across campus (see below). Within the Department of Psychology, Hill Goldsmith studies infant temperament, behavioral genetics, and several facets of early personality development. Jenny Saffran studies how infants learn, with a particular focus on the development of linguistic and musical knowledge.
Although there are infant research facilities in the Psychology Department itself, the primary research facility for infant studies at UW-Madison is the Waisman Center
. Researchers at Waisman have access to a large array of pertinent facilities, including infant birth databases, laboratory space, and an on-site child care center. Laboratory Links:
Hill Goldsmith's UW Twin Center
Jenny Saffran's Infant Learning Lab
Among the other infancy researchers on campus are Mary Schneider
, Lewis Leavitt
, and Roseanne Clark
. These researchers often collaborate closely with other developmentalists who study early childhood development. This latter group includes Martha Alibali
, Chuck Kalish
, Marilyn Essex
, Seth Pollak
, and Colleen Moore