Child Studies

Current Research

Tests of face and object perception

Prosopagnosia (“face blindness”) is a disorder of visual perception characterized by severe difficulties with face recognition. In its developmental form (developmental prosopagnosia, or DP), prosopagnosia is not the result of brain damage, but rather a failure to develop the necessary visual mechanisms for processing faces. Much work has been done to study DP in adults, but little has been done to study it in children. In order to facilitate the study of DP in children, we are in the process of developing tests of face and object recognition that can be used to determine whether children are experiencing difficulties with face and/or object processing. We are currently collecting data from typically developing children to evaluate normal performance levels on these tasks. We are seeking kids between the ages of 7-12 participate in this research study. If your child is interested in participating, please contact us for more information: yonaslab@umn.edu.

Hane Face Window

One of the early indicators that a young child may be showing signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lack of eye contact, or more generally, an abnormal response to social stimuli such as faces (Dawson, Webb, & McPartland, 2005). Ruth Elaine Hane created the Hane Face Window, a device that visually isolates facial features, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth. The idea behind this window is that decomposing a face into a collection of parts will make it less aversive to children with ASD.

In partnership with Fraser, we are in the process of testing the efficacy of this window for improving face recognition in children with ASD. We are currently seeking typically developing children and children with ASD to participate in our study. If you child is interested in participating, please contact us for more information: yonaslab@umn.edu.

Past Research

Impossible Objects

Possible elephant. Visual perception is more than simply sensing the intensity of light and its wavelength or color; it is how we come to know the environment and it makes possible our ability to recognize objects and act. The goal of this research is to further understand the development of the complex processes that go on while a human being is visually receiving sensory input and interpreting that information. Specifically, we have been working with children ranging from ages 5 months to 4 years old. We are trying to find the age at which young children can incorporate all the parts of a 3-dimensional picture, and analyze it as a whole. Within current research, there is a lot of controversy over at what age this ability emerges in young children. To do so, we show children two pictures at once (one of an odd, “impossible,” objects and one of a normal, “possible,” object) and measure the looking times to infer if they recognize the difference between the two pictures.

 

 

Impossible elephant. This research will help us understand normal perceptual development, but also has the potential to help us better understand abnormal development. There is evidence that Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects the perceptual abilities. It may be difficult for an autistic child to perceive the differences between impossible and possible objects. It is commonly thought that they see the pieces of the puzzle, but not the whole picture. If we can determine the age at which infants are able to perceive a difference between possible and impossible objects, we may be able to develop it into a test that will help diagnose Autism at an early age. Currently, it is difficult to diagnose ASD before toddler years. This type of research has the potential to move that timeline up dramatically.

We will be continuing this research to find more significance in the data and more information will be added soon!