LFE

Profile of the Leipzig Research Center
for Early Child Development (LFE)

If you are interested in one of the topics, please contact the responsible project manager.
Students of the M.Sc. Early Childhood Research can find the Guidelines for Writing a Master’s Thesis here.

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Project: “Moral emotions”

Humans show a rich set of emotions such as shame, guilt, regret, and pride that emerge early in ontogeny and have a profound impact on the quality of children’s cooperative relationships with their peers.

Within this broad thematic framework, we offer projects addressing the following research question (but not limited to):

  • How does it feel to do the morally right thing?
  • How are guilt, pride, regret, and shame expressed in early childhood?
  • Do children’s experience positive emotions in response to seeing others being helped?
  • How do children perceive moral emotions in others?

Planned period of time for conducting the study and writing the master thesis: 8 to 10 months.

Project manager: Robert Hepach

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Project: “Individual differences in children’s prosociality”

Children are not helpful all the time even though they and others can benefit greatly from cooperative relationships. In an ongoing line of work we investigate individual differences that predict whether and how much children are motivated to help others.

Within this broad thematic framework, we offer projects addressing the following research question (but not limited to):

  • Does children’s motivation to help change over development? Are teenagers less motivated to help than toddlers?
  • What are markers for callous behaviour?
  • Are functional social relationships for children intrinsically rewarding and are there differences to clinical populations with social anxiety disorders?

Planned period of time for conducting the study and writing the master thesis: 8 to 10 months.

Project manager: Robert Hepach
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Project: “Children’s well-being in pedagogical contexts”

Children enter kindergarten at an early age. While many tools assess children cognitive development, few automated measures exist to capture children’s positive and negative emotions. In one line of research we seek to better understand how kindergarten experiences impact children’s emotional well-being.

We offer projects addressing the following research question (but not limited to):

  • Can we track children’s emotional well-being in their day-to-day routine?
  • What impact do peers and caregivers have on children’s well-being?
  • How can we identify children with emotional adjustment problems?

Planned period of time for conducting the study and writing the master thesis: 8 to 10 months.

Project manager: Robert Hepach

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Project: “Mechanisms of learning”

In ongoing work we collaborate with other labs to better understand how we can design environments that provide optimal learning environments for children in kindergarten, preschool, and school.

We offer projects addressing the following research question (but not limited to):

  • How do teachers structure efficient and impactful teaching environment? What makes a teacher a good teacher?
  • How do infants develop categories such as ‘harmful’ and ‘non-harmful’ in the context of learning about plants?

Planned period of time for conducting the study and writing the master thesis: 8 to 10 months.

Project manager: Robert Hepach

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Project: “Attachment in Children & Families”

First described by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth during the second half of the last century, attachment theory postulates that early interactions with significant others – mostly primary caregivers – have a lasting influence on social emotional child development. If caregivers are available and sensitively responsive in times of distress and need, children develop a positive representation of others and their own capability to elicit social support. These features are associated with the emergence of a secure attachment orientation. If caregivers, in turn, are unavailable and insensitive, or react in an unpredictable and inconsistent manner to children’s support seeking attempts, children are likely to develop an insecure –avoidant and/or anxious – attachment orientation. During the last years, a growing body of research has emerged characterizing the above secure versus insecure attachment orientations on a physiological and neural level in children, adolescents, and adults. Nonetheless, many questions remain unresolved.

Possible Research Projects:

(1) Participation in a mother-child fNIRS hyperscanning project assessing bio-behavioral synchrony during social cooperation

  • fNIRS data will be acquired in winter 2018/19
  • Mothers’ attachment style will be assessed through self-report questionnaires and behavioral coding from videos recorded during social cooperation
  • Children’s attachment style will be assessed using a semi-structured interview (Story Stem Task)
  • Child age will be 5 years

(2) Participation in an experiment looking at physiological responses to pictures of own parents versus unknown adults in children

  • Physiological data (eye tracking, body posture & electrocardiogram) will be acquired in early 2019
  • Children’s attachment style will be assessed using a semi-structured interview (Story Stem Task)
  • Child age will be 5-6 years

(3) Analysis of fMRI data acquired in fathers seeing images of their own versus unknown children

  • fMRI data is currently being acquired and will be available for analysis
  • Fathers’ attachment style will be available from self-report questionnaires as well as from the adult attachment interview (AAI)

Researcher Profile:

  • Interest in the overall topic of attachment in combination with physiological and neuroimaging methods
  • Technical abilities
  • Aptitude to independently plan and lead an interdisciplinary project
  • Good interpersonal skills

For certain aspects of the above projects, German is an advantage (and for direct contact with participants sometimes required), but other parts can also be carried out by non-German speakers – individual solutions will be worked out.

Project manager: Pascal Vrticka

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Project: “Overimitation”

Overimitation is the imitation of recognizably irrelevant action steps. Numerous experiments have shown that humans (unlike apes such as chimpanzees or bonobos) tend to imitate unnecessary steps of action despite their obvious irrelevance for the actual goal of the task. The phenomenon is usually investigated by an investigator performing irrelevant and relevant actions on a new and unknown object. This object is usually a transparent puzzle box with a reward in it. The relevant action is usually to open a flap or door and get out the reward with the help of a staff. The irrelevant actions range from clapping to the use of levers or buttons that have no function. The aim of this master thesis will be to investigate whether overimitation is connected with the transmission of other culturally relevant knowledge. This project is to be carried out as a joint thesis by two to three students.

Subtasks:

  • Literature research
  • Planning of a suitable study design
  • Data collection
  • Data evaluation

We offer:

  • Active cooperation in social-cognitive research
  • Working with children in Leipzig day care centres
  • Intensive integration in all stages of the research process: planning, data collection and data evaluation
  • Tight and intensive support during work

Requirements:

  • Study of Psychology or a related subject
  • Self-employed, committed and responsible work
  • Fluent German and very good English skills

Project managers:  Roman Stengelin and Hanna Schleihauf

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Project: “Consequences of linguistic similarity in preschool age”

The master thesis follows an ongoing research project on homophilia (self-similarity preference) at the Leipzig Research Center for Early Childhood Development (LFE) in cooperation with the CNRS in Bron (Lyon, France). It is examined in which situations children prefer (linguistically) similar other children. Children of pre-school age are presented with various stimuli in German and French and asked about their preferences. We want to find out in which situations linguistic similarity is important for children and what conclusions they draw from the language of their counterparts.

Requirements:

  • Student of Psychology
  • Interest and fun in developmental psychological content
  • Initiative, motivation, self-employment
  • Enthusiasm for working with children
  • German or French at native speaker level

Procedure/Focal points::

  • Literature research and training
  • Survey of stimulus material in Leipzig
  • Training for conducting the study
  • Student implementation
  • Coding and statistical evaluation of data
  • Creation of a written dissertation
  • Creation of a written dissertation

Project manager: Marie Kaiser

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Project: “Socialization of intergroup attitudes and ethnicity in German-German and Turkish-German milieus”

The master thesis is part of an ongoing dissertation project at the Leipzig Research Center for Early Childhood Development (LFE). In a first step qualitative surveys of the different groups are prepared. Within the framework of the project, internships as well as dissertations are possible upon request.

Requirements:

  • Student of Psychology or a related subject
    (Sociology, Cultural Studies, Ethnology)
  • Founded research methodological knowledge (quantitative or qualitative)
  • Interest in development-psychological / anthropological contents
  • Initiative, motivation, self-employment
  • Social competence, open and friendly behaviour in contact with parents
  • Very good knowledge of German or Turkish

Project manager: Marie Kaiser

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Project: „Children’s gaming behavior in a free setting”

This master’s thesis aims at exploring the relationship between how children play games and the values of their cultures. In cooperation with a game designer, we designed the a game called “KoKo“, which can be played in different gaming contexts (cooperative or competitive). This master’s thesis explores how German children intuitively play KoKo. Do children prefer to play KoKo cooperatively or competitively? How quickly do they switch between these different options? What rules do they develop while playing the game? Using naturalistic observations, these questions will be addressed in 3- to 5-year-olds. Data will be collected in kindergartens in Leipzig, thus, potential candidates should have a good understanding of the German language. The master’s thesis includes data collection, statistical analyses, and data interpretation, and should be written in English.

Project managers: Sarah Peoples and Theo Toppe