My research focuses on the development of social and visual cognition in humans. Specifically, my students and I are addressing the following questions from a developmental perspective:
- What is the nature of the information that infants and children encode about humans and objects?
- How do they organize this information to compute meaningful representations of people, objects, and events?
- How do memory and other cognitive processes, such as expectancy, develop to enable the functional use of this information?
I also collaborate with Professor Jane Joseph of the Medical University of South Carolina to study brain development in typically developing children and those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
1. One set of studies is examining the nature of the information that infants use to process faces and how that differs with age. Other face studies that we are conducting are looking into the question of expertise. As adults, we are experts at detecting and attending to socially significant information in faces, such as race, gender, and emotion. We are investigating how infants process these kinds of information during the first year of life.
2. Another set of studies is examining infants’ knowledge about human bodies. Our research suggests that at least by 9 months of age, infants are sensitive to certain aspects of bodies, such as the relative proportions of body parts. However, 5-month-olds do not appear to be sensitive to such information. We are examining the nature of this development.
3. Another area of research involves visual organization. When we look around us or imagine things, we don’t see unorganized bits and pieces of contours and shapes. Rather we see a meaningful picture of objects and events around us. How does this happen? How does this capacity develop in infancy? To answer such questions, we are trying to understand how infants organize visual information into coherent objects and how this changes with age.
4. A fourth area of my research is a collaboration with Dr. Jane Joseph of the Medical University of South Carolina in which we are using fMRI techniques to understand the neural underpinnings of face processing in childhood. We are studying normally developing children, those with Autism Developmental Disorder (ASD), and non-diagnosed siblings of children with ASD.
Infant cognition lab: ukinfantmemory.as.uky.edu
Hock, A.*, Kangas, A.*, Zieber, N.*, & Bhatt, R.S. (2015). The development of sex category representation in infancy: Matching of faces and bodies. Developmental Psychology, (51)3, 346-352.
Zieber, N.*, Kangas, A.*, Hock, A.*, & Bhatt, R. S. (2014). Infants’ perception of emotions from body movements. Child Development, 85, 675-684.
Hayden, A.*, Bhatt, R. S., Kangas, A.*, Ziber, N.*, & Joseph, J. E. (2012). Race-based perceptual asymmetry in face processing is evident early in life. Infancy, 17(5), 578-590.
Bhatt, R. S., & Quinn, P. C. (2011). How does learning impact development in infancy? The case of perceptual organization. Infancy, 16, 2-38.
Joseph, J. E., Bhatt, R. S., & Gathers, A. D. (2011). Progressive and regressive developmental changes in neural substrates for face processing: Testing specific predictions of the Interactive Specialization account. Developmental Science, 14, 227-241.
Bhatt, R. S., Bertin, E.*, Hayden, A.*, & Reed, A.* (2005). Face processing in infancy: Developmental changes in the use of different kinds of relational information. Child Development, 76, 169-181.
* denotes undergraduate, graduate, or post-doctoral student.