Rechele Brooks, Ph.D.

Research Scientist

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The Joint Attention Lab (JA Lab) is located at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences on the University of Washington, Seattle campus. At the JA Lab, we seek to understand infants’ and children’s social and cognitive development. We are interested in how infants and children understand the perspectives of others and how their understanding of people impacts their social interactions.

In the JA Lab, we specifically study how infants and children understand the eye gaze of other people. The direction of an adult’s gaze conveys important information about objects of interest in the surroundings. By following the eye gaze of others, adults can identify what another person wants, likes, or sees. This ability is usually called “gaze following” or “joint visual attention,” and is important for face-to-face social interactions. We study when and how infants develop this understanding of eye gaze.

       Want to volunteer for a child development study at I-LABS?

       We have some online and in-person studies at I-LABS:

Here is what we study at the JVA Lab:

  • Gaze following
    • When do infants follow the eye-gaze of other people?
    • How does this relate to their language development?
    • How do infants learn about the perception of other people?
  • Robots
    • What makes infants and children view non-human objects as agents (i.e., potentially sentient)?
    • When will they interact with a robot as if it is a person?
    • How do infants decide if they should follow the “gaze” of a robot?
  • Deaf infants and children
    • How do infants' experiences with sign language and being Deaf enhance their interest in eye gaze during social interactions?
    • Do infants and children who are deaf rely more on seeing social cues (e.g., eye-gaze, pointing) than their hearing peers?

For our research, we invite infants and toddlers to come to the lab with their parents. Children and the researcher(s) play with toys together at a table while the children sit on their parent’s lap. Playing during the study lasts about 20 minutes, but families visit the lab for a full hour to allow time for paperwork, questions, and free-play time.

Students are encouraged to apply to be a 499 student or volunteer if the research being conducted at our lab matches with their interests. We usually have 3 to 6 undergraduate students who are earning credit for their lab work each quarter.