CORAL GABLES, FL (January 21, 2010)--Non-expert is not often a term that one would associate with scientific research, but it could become a new trend in psychology research. Some recent studies have begun to rely on non-expert students to observe and provide data during experiments.
In a research project about early autism detection in infants, Dr. Daniel Messinger, an associate professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami (UM), and his research group are doing exactly that.
"The idea is that human beings are essentially experts on certain aspects of interpersonal interaction. This seems to be particularly true for emotion, as understanding the emotions of others is critical to our own development," says Dr. Jason Baker, a UM postdoctoral researcher with Messinger and first author of the study.
The study entitled "Non-Expert Ratings of Infant and Parent Emotion: Concordance with Expert Coding and Relevance to Early Autism Risk," is published in the January issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Development.
The study used 188 non-expert students to observe the interactions of 38 parents and their six-month old infants, 20 of whom had older siblings with autism spectrum diagnoses and were considered high risk, and 18 of whom did not have a sibling with autism and were used as a control group.
The parents were asked to play with their child for three minutes and then to keep a still emotionless face for two minutes. The idea was to measure the infant's interactions and how their emotions changed in response to the unusual situation.
Each video was observed and rated by the students. The non-experts were shown the video files and were told to use the joystick provided to rate the emotional state of the subject in the video. A graduated color bar was provided with a neutral tic mark. Ratings above the tic mark indicated positive emotion (joy, happiness, pleasure). Ratings
|Contact: Marie Guma-Diaz|
University of Miami