“The baby, assailed by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming buzzing confusion”- William James
As the end of the Semester approaches we unfortunately have to say goodbye to some of the students that have been doing research at the Early Learning Project this year. I caught up with our Honours Student, Amelia, to find out about her thesis and what her plans are now that she has finished her degree.
Tell me about the research project you undertook for your thesis
For my thesis I was looking at future thinking in 4-year-olds, and how they understand that their preferences for objects mightchange in the future. In the experiment I showed 4-year-olds two pictures, one of them was something children generally like (e.g. apple juice) and the other something that adults generally likes (e.g. coffee). For each pair of pictures, we asked the child which they like now, and which they will like in the future. For some of the children we asked what they like now first, whereas other children were asked what they will like when they’re grown up first. We also wanted to test whether getting to play with the items that children generally like first, would help children be better able to inhibit their choices for those items when they were asked abuot what they might like in the future so half of the children got to drink apple juice and play with the child-preferable toys and the other half of children got to play with other things before we asked them about their preferences.
What did you find?
In general, all of the children who were asked their current preferences first were subsequently better at saying they might like adult-preferable things in the future in the second part of the experiment. I also found that including a play session did not affect the girls’ responses about their preferences, however, when the boys had a play session before being asked their preferences they were better at identifying that their preferences might change when they are grown up.
Why did you choose to research this topic?
I like kids, I have 7 younger brothers and sisters under the age of 10! So I knew I wanted to do developmental research for my thesis. I find future thinking really interesting and had previously read a paper by some psychologists who had performed a similar study, but I thought that there was a gap in the research for seeing in which circumstances the children’s ability to think about the future might change. I added the play session to the experiment to find out if the children’s future thinking improved after experiencing playing with the toys.
What was the biggest challenge for your research?
Recruiting 4-year-olds is very difficult compared to adults. Because I had chosen to do a developmental project it meant that I was still testing children until about 2 weeks before my thesis was due in! It was worth the effort though to be able to play with some very cute kids, although if I were to do the project again I would definitely try and stick to a specific time frame and not leave writing my thesis until the very last minute!
What are your plans now that you’ve finished?
This summer I’m going to Malaysia for my brother’s wedding which I am very excited about. It’s a traditional Indian wedding so it will go on for a few days! I also currently do applied behavioural analysis therapy with kids with autism. I might carry on to do a masters in a couple of years, or if not I’ll carry on with ABA therapy. For now I’m enjoying going to the beach and spending time with my friends and family.
Congratulations Amelia for completing your Honours degree and we would like to wish you the best of luck in the future.
I am the Director of the Early Learning Project at UNSW. My research interests focus on learning, memory and emotion understanding development in infancy and early childhood
I am currently studying for my undergraduate Psychology degree at Cardiff University in the UK. I am working as a Research Assistant in the Early Learning Project as part of our placement program this year.
I have just finished my thesis for my honuors degree. My research focused on future thinking ability in preschoolers.