Research -- Dr. Petra Hauf

Research Areas

My research involves investigating cognitive development during infancy and early childhood, especially understanding actions, the impact of perceptual and motor development, and the acquisition of physical knowledge. I am particularly interested in infant action control, the understanding infants posess of the actions performed by others and how these two aspects are related to each other during early development.  This interest is based upon questions about how infants come to understand their own actions and the actions of others.  For example, do they need to be able to produce an action on their own before they are able to understand actions of others, or do they first understand actions of others and afterward figure out that they are able to produce these actions by their own? 

Baby See, Baby Do, Baby Learn

Infants are more interactive than you might think. In fact, there’s a lot going on in their worlds. Recent research suggests they have intense exchanges with their environment long before they can ever talk. It seems babies are especially interested in learning about actions—others’, their own and the outcomes of these actions. 

As Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Development, I plan to study how infants learn to understand actions during infancy and early childhood. Specifically, I am looking at how infants’ perceptual and motor development affects how and when they begin to produce their own actions as well as how this development affects their ability to perceive and understand the actions that others make. Using eye-tracking and video technology I am also researching what other features are linked to infants' development. 

Studying infants, I have discovered that in their first year of life they not only learn about actions while watching others but that the actions they produce themselves affects how interested they are in those made by others. Understanding this two-way relationship is key to more advanced understanding of actions, goals and communication. 

My research focuses on the relationship between perceptual and motor development and how the development of these two systems affects normally developed infants thinking ability. This research may additionally be used to develop training programs for infants and young children with developmental delays. By understanding the interplay between motor and perceptual development and overall cognitive function it may be possible to develop training programs that help alleviate the problems associated with developmental delays. 

Visit the Infant Action and Cognition Lab