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Study Results

Dear families,
In the following, we would like to inform you about the results of our current studies. To see the study results, you can either jump directly to the results of a study via the listing or simply scroll through all studies. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the person listed.
If you have already been to our department, we thank you very much for participating with your child and we look forward to seeing you again!
If you have not yet participated in any of our studies, we would be very pleased if you would register with us without obligation via our contact form. We will then inform you in due time when we conduct studies with children of your child's age.



     2D3D - Perception of real objects and images

Children are surrounded by many different objects in their everyday lives. Already in the first months of life, they can distinguish between real objects and pictures of objects. For example, infants know early on that they can grasp a real pacifier, whereas they cannot interact with a picture of a pacifier. In recent years, we have already found that infants as young as 7 months look longer at real objects than at pictures of these objects. Moreover, we know that this so-called "visual preference for real objects" is related to whether the infants have previously explored the objects with their hands.

A crucial difference between two- and three-dimensional objects is the presence of depth cues. Real objects contain more depth cues than pictures of the objects. For example, if we move from left to right, our field of view shifts, with nearby objects moving in the opposite direction and more distant objects moving in the same direction as our head. This effect is called motion parallax. With images, on the other hand, there is no motion parallax. When we look at an image and move sideways, the image always remains the same and the objects in it do not move.

In our project on 2D3D perception, we are currently investigating the role of motion parallax in distinguishing between real objects and their images in infants. For this purpose, we show 7- and 8-month-old infants real objects and images of these objects simultaneously and compare how long the infants look at both object formats. We show the images on iPads by using an app that simulates depth cues through motion parallax, making two-dimensional objects appear as if they were three-dimensional. We can turn this simulation on and off so that sometimes the same image contains depth cues and sometimes it does not. 

Currently, we are still in the middle of data collection and are looking forward to many more participants!




In this project, we are interested in how children with congenital clubfoot develop.

Congenital clubfoot is one of the most common congenital deformities in Europe, with an incidence of 1-2 per 1000 births. Boys have a significantly higher incidence compared to girls. The Ponseti method has become the method of choice in treatment in the last years. Treatment should begin soon after birth and includes casting, an Achilles tendon tenotomy, and foot abduction bracing.

Previous studies show mild impairments in motor development in children treated for congenital clubfoot. However, it is known from previous research that different domains of child development (e.g. motor function, language, cognition) are closely connected. Accordingly, an impairment in one developmental domain could also have an impact on the development of another domain. Therefore, we are interested in different aspects of child development such as gross and fine motor skills as well as language and spatial-cognitive development of clubfoot children up to the age of four. Another important issue motivating our research is the social and emotional development of the children and how parents cope with the impairment of their children. In the last years, more than 200 children with and without congenital clubfoot have already participated in this study. The first results indicate slight gross motor deficits in infancy and toddlerhood. Additionally, our results show that the processing of spatial-cognitive tasks is more difficult for clubfoot children compared to typically developing children. For more information, please click on the links to the following publications:

Dillmann, J., Peterlein, CD., & Schwarzer, G. (2018). A longitudinal study of motor and cognitive development in infants with congenital idiopathic clubfoot. Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 6(1), 24-43.

Dillmann, J.Gehb, G., Peterlein, C.D., & Schwarzer, G. (2019). Joint visual attention and locomotor experience: A longitudinal study of infants with treated idiopathic clubfoot. Infant and Child Development, 28(2), e2118.

Dillmann, J.Schwarzer, G., & Peterlein, CD. (2019). Motor and cognitive functioning in children treated for idiopathic clubfoot at the age of 3 years. BMC Pediatrics, 19, 394.

Currently, we focus on the motor and language development of 12- and 24 months old children with congenital clubfoot. 



     Childhood social-emotional development & parental stress during Covid 19


Early child development is strongly influenced by what a child experiences in his/her daily life. The ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic has a strong impact on the daily lives of many families. To examine how these changes have affected early social-emotional development, we conducted a questionnaire study.

Over the past 3 years, more than 400 families completed these questionnaires. Preliminary results suggest a persistent stress level (particularly among parents of toddlers) over the course of the pandemic. In addition, parental stress appears to be negatively associated with social-emotional child development. For more information, please click on the link to the following publication:

Dillmann, J.*, Sensoy, Ö.*, & Schwarzer, G. (2022). Parental perceived stress and its consequences on early social-emotional child development during COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Early Childhood Research.

In order to better understand the long-term effects of the pandemic, we are surveying parents regarding their feelings of stress and children's social-emotional development again. In addition, we are currently inviting a subgroup of children into our lab to assess their social emotional skills using a standardized test procedure (EMK 3-6).



     Development of peripersonal space in children

The term personal space refers to an area close to the body (about as far as the arm reaches) within which our actions take place. We also know that personal space has a special significance for our personal well-being - for example if an insect "invades" our personal space, we perceive it as unpleasant or even threatening. Research on adults has shown that our personal space bundles information from all our senses to support our actions. Furthermore, it changes when we use tools. For example, if we use a long stick to pull an object beyond our reach, this expands our personal space. This can be seen in the way that people subsequently judge the distance of objects to be smaller than before - the objects seem to have "moved" within reach. We would now like to explore whether such processes can also be demonstrated in children when they "grasp" objects with a tool.

The children are presented with various toys on a stick, which they continuously approach. Meanwhile, we measure when and how the children reach for the respective objects. From this, we can deduce how far away the child perceived the different objects to be. For the rest of the process, we divide the children into two groups. Children in the "tool group" are to try in another run to use a tool to pull objects that are at different distances from them toward them. Children in the "control group" play with new toys at the table during this time. We then repeat the stick task in which children are asked to reach for toys. We are now interested in whether children of the tool group reach for the presented toy earlier after tool use than they did before and whether they differ from children of the control group. The surveys are currently still ongoing.



 Influence of social cognition and perspective taking on tool handover

Our current study is about how 6 to 7-year-old children plan actions in social situations. More specifically, we want to find out how children grab tools in different situations in order to hand them over to another person. To do this, we want children to use different tools (e.g., a magnetic wand) to either perform different tasks themselves (e.g., retrieve metal balls from a basket) or to pass the tools to another person. We are interested in the grasping strategies that children use under these two conditions.

In addition, we want to investigate the extent to which children's performance in the grasping task is related to two cognitive processes, namely social cognition (thinking about other people's thoughts and intentions) and spatial perspective-taking.

We capture children's "social cognition" by asking them about what other people are thinking in certain situations. We measure perspective-taking ability by asking children to replicate another person's perspective on an object.

The study is currently in the survey stage and has not yet been completed.



     Mental rotation in toddlers

This study examines the ability of toddlers between the ages of three and six to mentally rotate objects. Since our studies with infants showed a relationship between this ability and motor development, we want to know if this relationship continues in toddlerhood. 

To make the study fun for the children, the children's "task" is to help the hand puppet, Seppi, with a circus performance. For this, the children see different colorful blocks and have to decide which block is the most suitable to build the circus ring. In another task, they have to indicate which circus performers they have already seen. 

To get information about the children's motor skills, they complete some "acrobatic" exercises, such as balancing. 
This study has just begun and we are looking forward to many more helpers.



     Motor adaptation to the change of a task typical for everyday life


In this study, we are interested in motor adaptation to changes in force conditions in (young) children aged 17 to 19 months and 3 years. Here, children are given the task of opening a drawer several times and collecting wooden blocks from the drawer, and placing them in a box. To make this playful, we tell the children that they are collecting food (e.g. yellow wooden blocks as bananas) for animals (e.g. a monkey, which is pictured on the box). The drawer is sometimes easier and sometimes harder to open and we test the children's response to this change. We measure the children's muscle activity using surface electromyography on the forearm and the opening speed of the drawer using our camera system.

Initial results of the data analysis show that children as young as 1.5 years of age exhibit mechanisms of motor adaptation. This means that they are able to quickly adapt their behavior to their environment. Previous studies could only show this for 3-year-olds or older children. However, at the age of 1.5 years, children need even more time to adapt to changes than 3-year-olds and adults. In addition, their adaptation mechanisms are also still much more variable, which means that they cannot yet use the new effort required to open the drawer as precisely. Complex relationships are responsible for motor adaptation that even 3-year-olds have not yet fully mastered, so force adaptation is also still less efficient for them than it is for adult participants.

The experiment is still running and we are looking forward to any further participation! If you are interested, please contact us by e-mail ( or leave a message on our answering machine (0641/9926003).


Perception of materials

This project is about the question of how children at the age of 6 perceive different properties of materials. In particular, we are interested in whether and how they distinguish permanently deformable materials (e.g. clay or plasticine) from elastic materials (e.g. foam). For us adults, this distinction is relatively easy because we can feel such differences with special hand grips. We would now like to find out whether children who are allowed to explore objects made of different materials with their hands can also distinguish between corresponding materials, and whether they adapt their hand movements to the properties of the materials.

For this purpose, the children are allowed to explore either an elastic or a plastic object, which looks identical, by looking at it and feeling it. Then, two visually identical objects (each elastic/plastic) are manipulated by another person and the children are allowed to watch. Afterwards, the children are asked to decide which of the two objects corresponds to the one they have previously engaged with themselves. This current study continues a series of studies with children of different ages that began some time ago. In the groups surveyed so far (11 months, 3 years, 5 years), it appears that children are not able to distinguish subtle differences in materials, such as different types of deformability until they are 5 years old. The study with the 6-year-old children is currently being collected.



     Perception and processing of familiar size in infancy


The familiar size of objects describes the size that an object typically has in the real world. Hereby, the familiar size influences our thinking and our actions. For instance, to successfully grasp an object, we have to take its size into account. In a series of studies, we investigate, when infants show knowledge of the familiar size of objects and which conditions contribute to activating their knowledge. Our results demonstrate that infants as young as 7-month show knowledge of the familiar size of objects, but only when they are able to interact with the real objects. By 12 months of age, however, looking at objects is enough for activating familiar size knowledge. Moreover, we were also interested in how far infants show knowledge of the familiar size of objects when they see pictures rather than real objects. At 7 and 12 months, we found no indications for recognizing the familiar size of objects in pictures. Therefore, we are investigating in a current study, if 15-month-old children are able to recognize the familiar size of objects in pictures and how this might be connected to walking freely.

Further reading:

Sensoy, Ö., Culham, J.C., & Schwarzer, G. (2021). The Advantage of Real Objects over Matched Pictures in Infants' Processing of the Familiar Size of Objects. Infant and Child Development, 30(4); July/August 2021.

Sensoy, Ö., Culham, J.C. & Schwarzer, G. (2020). Do infants show knowledge of the familiar size of everyday objects?. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. Volume 195, July 2020.


    Perceived valence and arousal in emotional facial expressions 


With our survey, we would like to investigate developmental changes occurring from an early age (6-7 years) to adulthood in terms of perceiving arousal and valence in facial expressions. The terms "arousal" and "valence" can be understood as continua of how pleasant/unpleasant a face is for the observer (valence) or to what extent the perceived face has an arousing/calming effect on the observer (arousal). These scales are a staple in emotion research and previous results have shown that children are more sensitive to positive information compared to adults which applies both to emotion words and emotional facial expressions.

We would like to further test whether this effect which was found for static facial expressions can be replicated with videos of animated, talking characters expressing different emotions. 

The study’s results show that children found positive facial expressions as more positive compared to adults, which suggests a positivity bias when it comes to valence. However, we found the opposite effect for arousal where children evaluated the negative expressions as more arousing compared to adults. This points to a difference in the perception of static and dynamic expressions of emotions depending on the given task (rating valence or arousal).


     Speech and face processing in infancy


Speech and face processing are strongly interlinked with each other and show similar developmental trajectories in infancy. During the first year of life, infants become experts in their native language and native faces. This specialization is described as perceptual narrowing. In a series of studies, we are investigating, if speech and face processing still interact with each other beyond infancy or if both get more separated with ongoing specialization. The first results show that 5-year-olds process face identities independent of speech, however, speech processing is affected by face processing. With increasing age and in adulthood, speech and face processing seem to become largely independent of each other.



     Visuo-spatial prediction in everyday tasks


With this study we want to investigate the development of visuo-spatial prediction in infancy. This is the ability not only to perceive what is happening in the present, but also to predict how an object will look and behave in the future and to adapt one's own behavior accordingly. Since time passes between planning and executing an action, during which the environment is constantly changing, this is very important for successful interaction with the environment. We now want to explore whether predictive gaze and reaching behavior in everyday tasks depends on external factors such as motor development or even contextual information.

For this purpose, children aged 3 and 6 years carry different objects from one table to another several times, with both the type of objects and the exact task being slightly changed during performance. Behavior and eye movements are recorded with different camera systems and subsequently analyzed. Additionally, fine and gross motor skills are recorded with tasks on hand dexterity, ball skills, and balance. 
Since this experiment has only recently begun, no statements can yet be made about possible results.

If you are interested in participating, we would be very happy to hear from you! You are welcome to contact us by mail ( or by phone (0641-9926003).

If you are interested in participating, we would be very happy to hear from you! You are welcome to contact us by mail ( or by phone (0641-9926003).