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Online study

We bring science to your home! Join our online study called Biological Motion study!

  • You can comfortably participate from home with your baby by simply using your computer and a webcam.
  • We are going to use the Lookit online platform which was designed for online developmental studies.
  • You can read more information below about the study, the Lookit platform and how to participate!

Preferential looking in babies: Biological motion.

Understanding and evaluating social information is fundamental for healthy development of infants. An important source of social information is human movements. Infants are able to discriminate between human and non-human movements from very early on, even when the movements are shown by small lights attached to human joints in the dark. Infants typically prefer biological motion over non-biological or random movements. It is not clear, however, whether this preference can be influenced by the context in which infants watch these movements.

In this study, we will compare the looking preference for biological motion of infants who watch the point-light displays in the context of social stimulation to infants who watch the point-light displays in a non-social context. For doing so, we will first show videos of facial expression and hand gestures or moving machines and toys, and then we will simultaneously display two movies of moving point-light displays, one on the right and one on the left.

While one of the movies will resemble a human moving in the dark, the other will show random light points. We will measure how long the infant looks at the two displays. Longer looking indicates a preference for one over the other.

Who can participate?

Any child between 4 and 8 months of age, with no previous medical condition.

What are we measuring?

We are measuring your child’s preference between the two movies of moving point-light displays (i.e., a random one vs. the one that resembles human moving joints). We will present the two movies side-by-side: your child’s preference is indicated by the movie they spend more time looking at.

Data from all participants will be analyzed as a group: individual looking times are not clearly interpretable as there are several other individual and random factors that can influence infants’ looking behavior. The question of the study will be answered by looking for a general tendency in the group. This research method thus cannot be used as a tool for identifying individuals with developmental problems.

The Lookit online platform has been developed by the MIT’s Early Childhood Lab and adopted by Leiden University to bring science to the home environment. Here, each family can subscribe to the platform and participate in a study while comfortably sitting at home. In this way, we can observe more natural behavior, because children are at home rather than in an unfamiliar place.

Running studies online will also make it easier for you to participate: you don't need to travel to the university or to have a fixed appointment to participate in a study. You can participate whenever you and your child prefer without moving from your living room – you only need the link we provide and a functioning webcam!

You have decided to participate in our online study? Great! First, you will need to subscribe to the Lookit platform. Just follow the steps below!

  1. Go to lookit.mit.edu
  2. In the upper-right part of the page, click on “Sign Up
     Insert a valid email address, a name to use in the platform, and a password of your choice of minimum 16 characters. Make sure you make a note of your password for future reference.
  3. You will be asked to read and accept the Privacy Statement of the platform. This document explains how personal information is handled and used on the platform. You can find a quick overview in the section “How is my privacy guaranteed?”
  4. Answer a few questions about yourself. Go to “My Account” -> “Demographic Survey”. Here the platform will ask you for some information, such as the country you live in, first language, how many children you have, etc. This is for improving the website and obtaining an overview of the audience the platform reaches. You don’t have to answer all of the questions. It is sufficient to just insert your country and click “Save” to proceed. If you feel like sharing more information for improving the platform, please go ahead!
  5. Add your child. Go to “Children Information” -> “Add child” and insert a name for your child for platform, date of birth and gender. The platform will ask you for some further information, such as gestational age at birth, possible medical condition, languages the child is exposed to, etc. You don’t have to answer all of those questions. It is sufficient to insert a name, birthday and gender.
  6. Set up your mail preferences: In the “Email preferences”, you can indicate whether and when you wish to be contacted. We suggest that you toggle at least the “A researcher has questions about particular responses (for example, if I report a technical problem during the study)”, so that we can contact you for any technical issues that may arise, but you can turn off everything if you prefer not to be contacted further by the platform. Alternatively, you can keep all the options if you also want your child to participate in other studies from all around the world!
  7. Click on the study link. You can now login, select your child from the drop-down menu and start the study. There will be some instructions how to test your audio-video settings and about giving consent. You can also read about these in the “How to participate section”.

Technical requirements:

For participating in our studies on Lookit, you will need: 

  • A laptop or desktop computer with a webcam (not a mobile device)
  • A recent version of Chrome or Firefox browser. Internet Explorer and Safari are not supported unfortunately.

The video consent form: what is it?

Rather than having you sign a form, you’ll be asked to read a consent form and record yourself stating that you and your child agree to participate. This is recorded using your webcam. This video has the same legal value as signing a paper-form with the declaration of participation. If we cannot confirm that you have given your consent because of technical issues (e.g., the audio is not recorded properly), we cannot look at, download or use your data.

What do I have to do during the experiment?

Parents are asked to stay in the room with their child for the whole duration of the experiment. You can just sit and hold your child on your lap or over your shoulder.

If you choose to hold your child on your lap, try not to interact with him/her or to influence him/her in any way. Children learn from you all the time: if you suggest, even unintentionally, to look at a certain part of the display, they will imitate you and we won’t record your child’s true preference! If you need to stop or pause the experiment for any reason, you can do so by pressing the spacebar.

You can also decide to withdraw your participation at any point during the experiment by simply closing the browser's tab.

Do the experiment just once, even if your baby was not always focused on the screen: any video can help us to understand how babies perceive the world!

After you participated you can watch the video recording of your child by clicking on “Your past studies” on the Lookit platform under Studies.

What will my baby see?

In the Biological Motion study, your baby will first see short videos (for 5 seconds) of images with social content such as facial expressions or hand gestures or images with non-social content such as gears moving. These will be followed by two videos of moving point lights presented next to each other (for 15 seconds).

This sequence will be repeated four times. The entire presentation will last only around 5 minutes. When you participate in the study you can preview these videos yourself first without your baby.

Researchers using Lookit agree to uphold a common set of standards about how data is protected and shared. The Lookit researcher interface is designed with participant data protection as the top priority. All of your data, including video, is encrypted and transmitted over a secure HTTPS connection to Lookit storage.

You can end the experiment at any point by just closing the browser’s tab. If you decide that you’re not comfortable with sharing your videos, you can also decide to withdraw them at the end of the experiment. If this is the case, the videos will be automatically deleted.

Information about different levels of privacy

At the end of the experiment, you will be asked to make two different decisions about sharing your videos. First, you will be asked whether you want to share your video with Databrary. Databrary is a restricted access data library that is specialized for storing, streaming and sharing videos and audio recordings collected as research data or documentation. Data sharing will lead to faster progress in research on human development and behavior. Researchers who are granted access to the Databrary library must agree to treat the data with the same high standard of care they would use in their own laboratories. Learn more about Databrary's mission.

Second, you will be asked to choose what level of privacy you prefer for your videos, among the following:

  1. Private: This privacy level ensures that your video clips will be viewed only by authorized scientists (Lookit staff, our research group and, if you have opted to share your data with Databrary, authorized Databrary users). We will view the videos to record information about your child’s behaviour during the study - for instance, looking for 9 seconds at one image and 7 seconds at another image.
  2. Scientific and educational: This privacy level gives permission to share your video clips with other researchers or students for scientific or educational purposes. For example, researchers might show a video clip in a talk at a scientific conference or an undergraduate class about cognitive development or include an image or a link to the videorecording in a scientific paper. In some circumstances, video-recordings or images may be available online, for instance as supplementary material in a scientific paper. Sharing videos with other researchers helps other groups trust and build on our work.
  3. Publicity: This privacy level is for families who would be excited to see their child featured on the Lookit website or in the news! Selecting this privacy level gives permission to use your video clips to communicate about developmental studies and the Lookit platform with the public. For instance, we might post a short video clip on the Lookit website, on our Facebook page, or in a press release. Your video will never be used for commercial purposes.

If for some reason you do not select a privacy level, we treat the data as 'Private' and do not share with Databrary. For any further information, please see the FAQ “How is our information kept secure and confidential?” and “Who will see our video?”.

When you register on the Lookit platform, when you add your child and when you participate in a study, we collect different types of information:

  1. Account data: contact information that may include your email address, nickname, mailing address, and contact preferences.
  2. Child data: biographical information about your child, including nickname, date of birth, and gestational age at birth (optional).
  3. Demographic data (in case you indicated these): background and biographical information such as your native language, race, age, educational background, and family history of particular medical conditions.
  4. Study data: responses collected during particular studies conducted on Lookit, including the webcam video-recording of you and your child participating in the study, text entered in forms, the particular images that were shown, the timing of progression through the study.

These are collected by the platform, securely stored on the Lookit storage and shared with our researchers conducting the experiment. Your data will be used by the platform for its development and improvement, while our researchers will use the data to address particular scientific questions. There are some basic rules about how researchers can use your data: for example, researchers cannot use usernames, child nicknames, or contact information as a subject of research. For a complete overview of the use of personal information, see the Privacy Statement, section “How we use your personal information?”

If you or your child have any questions or concerns about the ongoing study please contact the principal investigator of this study Szilvia Biro: sbiro@fsw.leidenuniv.nl

For any questions concerning the platform or technical issues, email Isabella Saccardi: i.saccardi@fsw.leidenuniv.nl

If you wish to contact a qualified person who is external to the study for questions or complaints, email Arnout Koornneef: a.w.koornneef@fsw.leidenuniv.nl

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