Developmental psychology early social development lab

"My favorite part of this lab is working with the kids and getting to see the new studies being developed as well as coding the finished studies and evaluating data."


Supervising Faculty:

Celia Brownell



Celia Brownell
3409 Sennott Square


Area of Research:Developmental Psychology Early Social Development Labs


Description of Research:

What do infants and toddlers understand about themselves and other people, including emotions, goals, needs, and desires? How do they put their earliest social understanding to work in play and interaction? We study emotions, self/other understanding and early prosocial behavior (sharing, helping, comforting, cooperating) in 12 - 30 month olds. All of our research is observational; most of it is conducted in our laboratory playroom. Young children play with an adult (us or their parents) and/or with other children using standard toys, objects, and procedures. For example, in one study children see an experimenter receive sad news on the phone and start to cry; will the child bring the experimenter’s favorite toy to cheer him/her up?  In another study, children are asked to look after the experimenter’s crying baby (doll) while the experimenter steps out the room; will the child try to feed or comfort the crying baby? Children's behavior is recorded onto video for later coding and analysis. This is a great opportunity to learn about doing research with preverbal children.


Duties of Students:

The lab is in a data-coding phase; no new data collection is planned for the coming year. Students will code children’s and adults’ behavior from video, enter data into SPSS or Excel, and maintain data records. Students will learn how to use computer-based coding systems (e.g., CARMA, Datavyu, Elan), how to set up and test coding systems, how to establish inter-coder reliability, and other details of behavioral coding systems. We are a friendly and collaborative lab who all work together as a team. We are looking for students who are eager to learn, detail-oriented, have good time management skills, and work well with others. All research takes place in the Early Social Development Labs in Sennott Square on the Pitt campus during weekday hours.


Additional Requirements:

  • 3.0 or higher GPA
  • At least 12 credits in Psychology, including PSY 0035
  • PSY 0310 recommended
  • Two-term commitment required
  • Willing to learn new skills
  • Able to work well both independently and as part of a team


Terms offered: fall, spring and summer


Number of Students: varies