Online Research FAQ

What happens when my child participates in a research study?

The type of research that we typically do involves a scheduled video chat with one of our researchers. Each study will always begin in the same way: you and your child will learn what the research is about, and you both can then decide whether or not you want to do it. In some studies, your child may look at videos and point at the screen; in other studies, your child may listen to a story or see a short animation; other studies may involve short interviews or survey questions. By looking at the pattern of responses in each study, we can try to understand more about how children think and reason about the world around them, and how they express those thoughts using language.

Who will my child and I meet when we do a study involving a scheduled video chat?

For studies that involve a scheduled video chat, you will meet a researcher from our lab here at Brown University. Studies will be conducted by someone under the direct supervision of the director of our lab (e.g., a lab manager, research assistant, or a postdoctoral, graduate, or undergraduate researcher in training). Sometimes more than one researcher will be on the call, such as when we are training a new researcher how to run a study. 

Why participate in developmental research?

Lots of reasons! Here are three:

  • Our researchers work hard to make the studies engaging for children and families. We hope the study is fun for you and your child!

  • Your work supports science. Children are the world’s most powerful learners and the more we understand about how children grow and learn, the more we will understand about the human mind. 

  • While research studies aren’t usually designed to affect outcomes for individual children, the more we understand about children, the more effective we can be in building a world where they learn and thrive. Your participation helps all of us! 

This is great! Are there other places I can sign up to do research?

Yes! Researchers from many universities post their studies on a site called Children Helping Science. The site has studies for children of all age ranges, and many are set up as fun games or stories. You can learn more by visiting their website!

Can I learn the results of the research my child does?

You should expect to get an explanation of every study you participate in before you consent to the study. At the end of the study, you should have a chance to ask any questions you like.

Each study is different and the researchers involved in each study will be able to tell you the specifics of what information they can give you. In general though, the goal of research studies is to learn about children in general, not any particular child. Thus, the information we get is usually not appropriate for making diagnoses or assessing the performance of individuals.  

However, we always aim to share the general results of studies in scientific journals (e.g., “The majority of three-year-olds chose option A; the majority of five-year-olds chose option B.”).  You can click here to see some examples of scientific research published with data collected online with children. There can be a long lag between conducting a study and publication — your five-year-olds might be eight-year-olds before the results are in press! So in addition to scientific publications, many of the labs that post studies on this website have ways for parents to sign up to receive updates on results.

We always create a summer newsletter each year that describes our recent research projects and goes over what we’ve learned so far, to provide an update to all the wonderful people who have helped make this research possible. You can read it on our Research Page!

We will also highlight results on our social media pages: 

I want to sign up! How do I participate?

Thank you so much! You can sign up here on our website. Then, we will reach out to you inviting you to participate in a study your child is the right age for. Your information is kept secure by Brown University, and your contact information is only shared with the child development labs at Brown.

Here are some pictures of parents and children who have completed studies at home!