Town babe or country babe?

New study aims to discover babies’ preferences

Do babies prefer looking at rural or urban scenes? That’s the question a team of psychologists have set out to answer, and they’re looking for some miniature volunteers to help them.

The Sussex Baby Lab is based in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex. Its team researches early human sensory perception. They’re calling for an army of babies to aid their research, in particular those aged between four and eight months. Previous research has shown that adults prefer looking at nature scenes over urban scenes, and the team are now investigating whether the same is true of babies.

Dr Alice Skelton, from the Baby Lab in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex, says: “We’re looking for babies aged four to eight months to take part in this study. What’s great is that you can do this from home. Most parents and babies find it an engaging experience, and it’s fun to think that your baby is contributing to cutting-edge research – from the comfort of their own home!”

 Ailish MacInnes, a researcher in the Baby Lab adds: “We’re excited to be opening the Baby Lab back up, albeit virtually. Many of us have adapted to meeting via Zoom, and now it’s the turn of our baby scientists!

“For this study we are interested in what it is within scenes that engages babies. Do they love the green of the trees and curvy lines of lakes or are they more drawn to the high contrast of a street scene and the rectangular shapes of buildings? It’s going to be fascinating and we can’t wait to get started with the best research participants – our Baby Lab babies!”

Using online video technology to connect families at home with the psychologists in the lab, the babies will look at pictures on the screen. The team will measure which picture each baby looks at for longer, understanding that they tend to look for longer at images which they find more engaging. Their findings will be the first steps in working out whether babies are happier looking at countryside or urban scenes.

The scientists will also be boosting their understanding of how image perception develops in young children through a collaboration with (design led) baby product company Cosatto. The researchers are working with the designers at Cosatto to create a range of prams, pushchairs and car seats based on their research findings.

The study will run over the next few months and is the first of several studies looking to better understand how babies tune into the visual world around them. Parents of babies aged four to eight months who are interested in participating are invited to email them on The research sessions will take just twenty minutes and participants will need to have access to an iPad for the duration of the study. 

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