Saturday, November 14, 2009

Magdalena the guinea pig


Since I'm a linguist, it was pretty much a dream come true when a woman approached me at the farmer's market and asked if I would volunteer my kids to be subjects in Cornell's Baby Lab research. During my time in the BYU linguistics department, I was brought up on stories of famous studies like the Wug Test.

The research they had Magdalena participate in a few days ago was similar. I took her into a room and put on some huge headphones that blocked out the researcher's voice so I couldn't hear her and pass on unintentional cues to Magdalena. At the time, all I could see was that they were presenting her with a variety of objects and asking her to put certain ones in the basket.


At one point, they brought out a few oddly shaped stuffed toys, in felt and silky materials and in different colors. After the research was over, they told me that they taught her about one of the toys, and called it a Mody. The rest of the research experiment consisted of them asking her to put the Mody in the basket.

We actually made two trips to the Baby Lab, so they could test her recall on the second day. It was so much (nerdy) fun. Looking back, I'm not sure Magdalena performed too well, but I think it was partly because she was unwilling to give up such interesting toys to put them in the basket. One of the researchers told me that at one point, she asked Magdalena to put the ball in the basket and Magdalena shook her head and said, "No."

So if you see any ground-breaking linguistic research out there about a silly shape called a Mody, just know that Magdalena was instrumental in bringing it to pass.

(And if any of you in the Ithaca area want your kids to be linguistic research guinea pigs and also get a small pink stuffed monkey as a prize, go to the Baby Lab website to sign up.)

10 comments:

Liz Johnson said...

OK, that's AWESOME. Connor is occasionally used for PhD research at Notre Dame, and I love it. Ha! My little kid being instrumental in research developments! It's like he's serving a grand purpose in life already, at the age of 3. :)

Nancy said...

Ah! So jealous! And so fun!

Fromagette said...

I LOVE signing my kids up for research. Not only is it fun, my kids enjoy it, but they earn money sometimes. Once, Mathias had his brain waves measured while hearing the same two sounds over and over. So nerdy and so cool all at the same time.

Amber said...

Ok, so I never studied linguistics, but after following your link about the Wug Test, I now wish I had! I find that stuff fascinating - I guess I am a fellow nerd!

Amanda said...

When I went back to school, we put Lillian in the daycare on campus which was cheaper because you had to agree for the child development classes to be able to do experiments on them. I often walked in to pick her up and she'd be sorting things, or listening to weird music, or looking at paintings. It was fun.

Anna said...

That's pretty cool. I like the little Wug worksheet and I am prety dang curious to know what a Mody is.

My four brothers got to be in all kinds of research, and then they also went through a battery of learning tests. Not me though. I am the only person in my family who didn't even get to take an IQ test. Probably they were worried that the test couldn't calculate a score as mine would have been. Probably.

Bridget said...

I had no idea this was so common! Now I feel jealous that I never got to be in this kind of research when I was a kid.

The Mody was a dark blue puffy felt mushroomy shape, by the way.

Aimee said...

Wow! I didn't know it was this common either. I will definitely have to find some studies and enroll Jameson. Sounds like it was a fun day for you and Magdalena!

Matthew said...

I object that "Wuggen" is not a valid answer.

Bridget said...

Or Wugaat.

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