Living Laboratory

From the Living Laboratory – Museum of Science, Boston

https://www.mos.org/living-laboratory/explore-our-research/invisible-entities

When do children understand that “invisible things” can affect objects?

  • Topic: Cognitive Development
  • Location: Discovery Center

Preschoolers understand that some objects have internal properties that produce predictable and observable effects on other objects. Yet, in their everyday lives, children also hear about things they cannot see (e.g., germs, air), but that have observable effects. In this study, we are interested in when and how young children come to understand the causal properties of such invisible things.

Young children are shown a special box that changes color when a researcher places either a small object or an “invisible substance” on the box. Children see how different objects and “substances” change the color of the box, and are asked to explain what caused the box color to change. The researcher also presents children with an object that appears to be another object (e.g., a candle that looks like a crayon) to help researchers determine whether children understand that an object can appear to be something different than what it is.

We predict that, by 3 years of age, children will understand, and be able to explain, that both objects and “invisible substances” cause the lights on the box to change color. We also predict that children who understand that appearances can be deceiving (e.g., a candle that looks like a crayon is still a candle) will also be more likely to understand that events may be caused by things they cannot see (e.g., germs, air).

This research will help us better understand when and how children come to understand causal relationships that involve things they cannot directly observe.

This research is conducted at the Museum of Science, Boston by the Paul Harris Laboratory at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

    » Paul Harris Laboratory at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Activities to Try in the Discovery Center

What’s in there?

Find the Air Table in the Physical Sciences Area of the Discovery Center. Place a pipe over one of the holes in the table so that air is flowing through. Place a ball on the pipe and show your child that the ball floats. Move the pipe so that it is no longer sitting over one of the holes. Place a ball on the pipe and show your child that the ball does not float anymore. Ask: “What happened? Can you make the ball float again?” Help your child move the pipe back and forth – can s/he figure out what is making the ball float?

Activities to Try at Home

Lights, Camera, Action!

Find a flashlight, sit with your child in a dimly lit room, and play a guessing game. Turn the flashlight off, but aim it toward a wall. Ask your child to go and put their hand on the wall at the place where they think the light spot will be when the light is turned on. Turn the flashlight on, and see how close your child’s guess was. Take turns pointing the flashlight, and guessing where the light spot will be.

After playing a few times, ask your child: “How can we tell where the spot will be? Is there any light between the flashlight and the spot on the wall?” Encourage your child to walk around to explore this question by looking at it from different angles. We can see light when we look directly at the source (the flashlight), or it bounces off of something (like a wall), but as the light moves through the air it seems to be invisible. From what angle can s/he see the light the best? Are there any places in the room from which s/he cannot see the light?

Social Belonging

When we open up to another person and are recognized for who we are, we feel seen.

The basic human need for social connection is why the invisibility prank is especially cruel. There’s nothing more terrifying than not mattering—disappearing—to the people around us.

From Character Lab’s CEO and Co-Founder, Angela Duckworth’s article:
https://www.characterlab.org/thought-of-the-week-would-you-rather

Would You Rather

How the right questions open doors to meaningful conversations.

September 23, 2018 | Social Belonging

 

Would you rather—

(a)   Be extremely lucky or
(b)   Be extremely smart

Good question, right? A question like this opens the door to a meaningful conversation.

Try it.

It’s hard not to learn something about the other person—and about yourself, too—with a would-you-rather question like this. You end up talking about your values and your insecurities. You end up sharing stories about what led you to become the person you are today.

Now consider a more superficial would-you-rather question:

Would you rather—

(a)   Drink Pepsi or
(b)   Drink Coke

This question also gets at your preferences. But it skims along the surface rather than delving more deeply into who you are and what you’re all about.

A recent series of experiments pitted these two types of would-you-rather questions against each other. In particular, researchers hypothesized that self-revealing questions, rather than superficial questions, would decrease anxiety and increase interest among strangers of different races.

They were right.

Not only did self-revealing would-you-rather questions do a better job of building psychological trust, they also improved performance in a group problem-solving task.

So, yes, it’s fine to chat about the weather. And it makes us feel a bit closer to another person to discover we share a birthday or a favorite sports team. But it is when conversation turns toward the self-revealing, and away from the superficial, that we find it most meaningful.

When we open up to another person and are recognized for who we are, we feel seen.

The basic human need for social connection is why the invisibility prank is especially cruel. There’s nothing more terrifying than not mattering—disappearing—to the people around us.  

This is why, I think, it’s substantive conversation, more so than small talk, that is reliably linked to happiness.

Would you rather—

(a)   Keep your conversations light or
(b)   Show people something of yourself

I know how I’d answer.

With grit and gratitude,
Angela