Olofson Begins Child Development Project
by Chris Barsotti, Journal Review
January 28, 2010
Wabash College Professor Eric Olofson and student Evan Arnold are turning to the Crawfordsville community for help with a research study involving children.
Olofson and Arnold seek parents with children ages 8 to 11 months to help with a study in how infants understand the concept of helping.
Since Olofson came to Wabash two years ago, he has been working with local schools on various studies about children’s interaction with adults.
Now, Olofson turns his attention to infants and whether or not they understand helping concepts.
“Most of our studies look at various human abilities concerning understanding other people,” Olofson said. “Interaction is more than just communicating, but being able to understand what is going through a person’s mind, what their goals and desires are.
“If we as humans don’t have those abilities, it makes it hard to interact with others.”
Olofson is looking at how that system is constructed in the first year of life.
“Babies are born into the world knowing nothing,” he said. “We want to figure out how they ultimately learn these processes.”
The infants will be shown a few different scenarios which, according to Olofson, will trigger a reaction from the infant in terms of watching various shapes involved in the scenarios.
“The idea is that infants look at things the same way they look at toys,” Olofson said. “Old toys won’t be paid attention to because they are boring, while new toys get the attention because they are different and exciting.
“The same goes with our study. When the infant sees the shapes involved in the scenarios, we will watch to see if they understand which shapes are helping the other shapes. We do this by which shape garners the most looking time.”
In addition to the current study of infants, Olofson said he hopes to continue doing studies which interact with the community.
“It is unique to start research projects where we need community involvement,” he said. “When I came to Wabash, I wanted to work with a wide range of people in community.”
Olofson said the studies have been onestop visits for the volunteers and normally last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes in length.
“Right now we are looking for families to volunteer their time to help Evan complete his project on time and finish up his graduation,” Olofson said. “The more families that participate, the better off Evan will be in completing his project.”
While Olofson and Arnold are currently looking for infants, Olofson suggested any parents interested in participating in the studies should contact him at 765 361- 6406 or by e-mail
“We are always conducting various studies with the age ranges varying,” he said. “If we don’t have an immediate need for a certain aged child, we can take the families number and give them a call when a study would come up for them.”
Families participating won’t walk away empty-handed, either.
“We have T-shirts with the department’s logo on it for the infants and toddlers,” Olofson said. “We also give the parents a gift certificate to a local store for volunteering their time.”