Living Laboratory for Research on Cognitive Development

The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia
What the facility does

Behavioral research on cognitive development from infancy through adolescence.

Areas of expertise

Science Centres translate scientific knowledge for public consumption. Universities generate that raw knowledge through research and experimentation. The Living Lab represents Canada’s first relationship between a science centre and a local university, providing the public with daily access to university scientists and opportunities to observe, participate and learn from real experiments. The Living Lab exhibit aims to connect the public directly with experts from the University of British Columbia (UBC) who conduct research on the brain and cognitive development during their visit to Science World at TELUS World of Science. The Living Lab provides a platform by which all visitors can engage leading experts in the field of child development with questions about the science of the mind and can observe and participate in the groundbreaking research these scientists undertake. The Living Lab provides opportunities to engage in science for visitors aged six months and every age thereafter into adulthood. More specifically, every day scientists from UBC conduct research projects with children from infancy through adulthood. While the particular studies vary in topic (e.g., social development, language development, cognitive development) and methodologies (e.g., visual looking-time and crawling behaviour of infants, memory, explicit and implicit reports and inductive generalizations of toddlers and preschoolers;  and  response latency and verbal reports in childhood, adolescence and adulthood), there is always a study in which a visitor can either participate or observe. Moreover, the Living Lab staff regularly approach museum visitors to engage them in conversations about the science of child development and to do their best to address their questions about this area. Additionally, the Living Lab creates a special opportunity for a child’s caregiver to interact with their child in a unique way – to see their child as a topic of scientific inquiry where their own way of thinking and reasoning can be understood through a scientific lens.


The Living Lab fosters an understanding of science. This requires more than introducing children to the products of scientific discovery. It also requires introducing children to the process of scientific discovery and to the people who help to create that knowledge. Putting a face to the label scientist goes a long way toward helping children of every background appreciate that scientists are not just those people who bear the physical resemblance of Einstein in a white lab coat, but are people who look just like them (albeit a few years older, of course). Assisting children to see science as something they can practice and is a path they can pursue in life begins with providing them with positive examples of people who resemble them doing that work. Indeed, research shows that among primary school children one of the largest barriers to a belief that science is a possible career path is the belief that “science is not for people like me” (Cvencek, Meltzoff & Greenwald, 2011). Most often, these are predicated on examples accounting for differences in academic performance in STEM classes and career path goals based on children’s gender and race. The Living Lab introduces children to researchers from UBC who defy the traditional stereotype of what a scientist looks like, putting a positive and friendly face to the practice of science that cuts across many social divides.


A substantial amount of research that takes place in the Living Lab examines the cognitive and cultural foundations of intergroup bias (prejudice, discrimination) with an aim toward understanding how to foster greater tolerance in a multicultural world. Research examines the early roots of social bias among infants and explores how such biases change across early childhood into late adolescence. Through such research we hope to understand both the human capacity for tolerance and cooperation as well as the propensity for discrimination and conflict.


Research services

Cognitive development, science education, community engagement

Specialized labEquipmentFunction
Living LabTesting rooms with monitoring equipmentTwo sound-proof testing rooms equipped with state-of-the-art cameras, monitors and equipment for testing cognitive development among children from infancy through adolescence
 Infant looking time apparatusDesigned specifically for coding visual attention among infants six months of age and older
 Interactive video display wallDesigned to facilitate research examining intergroup cooperation and competition among multiple participants simultaneously
  • Science World at TELUS World of Science