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A child development study is currently under way at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Center for Child Studies, exploring the circumstances under which 2-, 3-, and 4- year old children learn from models.

The study is to research if children can learn from a computer model just as readily as they learn from a human model. This can be critical especially with the advancement of recent technology.

Designed as a game, children must touch pictures on a touch-sensitive computer screen in a specific order, much like one punches a series of numbers (PIN) on an ATM. Children can discover the order of pictures one of two ways: by trial and error, or by observing a model - either an adult or a computer. From this study, researchers hope to better understand how children learn by imitation.

The UL Lafayette Center for Child Studies is dedicated to discovering how children think, learn, and remember. Children can have a great time helping researchers unlock answers to child development questions by participating in studies taking place at the center. Although the center enrolls children under the age of 6 at any time, 3- and 4-year old girls and boys are being sought to complete this current study on imitation.

Experienced and professional staff work with preschool children to explore the various stages of mental development pertaining to these areas. The studies are conducted under the direction of Professor Daniel J. Povinelli, the center's director.

The general purpose of the center's research is to understand general trends in child development, not to assess the performance of individual children. Names are not used in publications of the research and participation is entirely on a voluntary basis. Most of the studies involve one visit that ranges from 20-40 minutes.

Parents who are interested and who have children under the age of 6 simply enroll their children, and a day and time convenient for the child and parent is scheduled. Typically, only one child visits the center at a time.

Upon their arrival, children spend time in a play area getting acquainted with the researcher and the center. Once they are comfortable, they are then invited to play fun games that are specifically designed to reveal important aspects of their thought processes. The children receive one-on-one attention, prizes, and positive reinforcement during their visit.

Once the study is completed, participants will receive a letter explaining what was learned about child development and how these findings impact child development research, and policies pertaining to education and caregiving. The studies' findings are further distributed for publication in academic journals, like Child Psychology and Child Development.

For more information contact the center at 482-5180.