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We do a lot of interesting research at the Surrey Baby Lab to help us find out how infants and children interact with their environment and if and how learning language has an influence on the way we perceive the world. Here are some summaries of our current and recent studies.

Current research

Why in Russian is 'elbow' masculine, while 'knee' is neuter and 'bone' is feminine? Why do some Dutch speakers distinguish three genders, and others only two? The origin of grammatical gender is a major question in linguistics, and how it is categorised is another key question in psychology. This research aims to explore how grammatical categories like gender come to exist, and how these varying gender systems impact our cognition.

How does our understanding of gender pronouns change across development and how does this align with gender stereotypes? Do parents’ perceptions of gender differ from their children’s? We are examining these fascinating questions in a range of studies using techniques such as written descriptions of gendered scenarios and children’s drawings.

What’s your favourite colour? Research has shown that this is largely dependent on your culture, as Western adults prefer bluish colours because of the association they make with fresh water or clear skies. But what about children? Are we born with these associations, or are they learned? This research explores colour associations across development to reveal more about whether aspects of colour cognition rely on experience, and if so, when in development this might occur. 

Research proposes that the colour red can affect the performance of adults on a range of different tasks. This colour often has negative connotations due to the learnt experiences people have. For example, historically red pens have been used by teachers to mark mistakes in schools. It is fascinating how this one colour might unconsciously affect our cognition and performance, and yet, there are still many unanswered questions within this topic. Our research aims to investigate if and how different colours can have an impact on children’s performance on a range of tasks.

The recognition of objects is a crucial part of a baby’s development and helps them to understand the world around them. Object recognition involves the use of many different cues, one of which is colour. Infants have been found to look longer at objects that are presented in their natural colour (e.g., a red strawberry) as opposed to an unnatural colour (e.g., a blue strawberry). It has therefore been assumed that infants prefer looking at natural coloured objects because they are familiar with them, but is this really what is going on?