Friday, June 29, 2007

The Science of Snappy

Snaps went to the UC Berkeley Infant Studies Lab yesterday afternoon on the day before she turned 13 months. This was important because she was participating in a human development study about memory in babies from exactly 12 months old to exactly 13 months old. She'd been studied before in February for a Visual Cliff and Moving Room study. I guess she did okay with the moving room study (all she had to do was sit in a chair and react...piece of frickin' cake...I mean come on. I could do THAT), but not so with the Visual Cliff... It was a crawling study. And in February, Snaps wasn't crawling per se...she was doing this :Hey. She got around. But for the Visual Cliff study they have you stand on the other side of the room, call the baby. If the baby crawls over a cliff* to get to you..then she loves you...or isn't afraid of heights. Whatever. Snappy wasn't having any of it. She just slapped the plexi-glass and giggled. They offered to give her a make-up exam. Pfft! A make-up exam! She was humiliated. (Humiliated...or tired and cranky...I'm not sure, but she cried all the way back to SF).

So yesterday was the day for REDEMPTION. A baby vs. grad student rematch. The challenge: memory. The test was designed, the 12 year old grad student explained to me (seriously, is it me or are young people getting even younger? Kids today!), to find out if babies who are constantly being told things like "don't go here" and "don't touch that" actually remember what not to touch and where not to go. Great. Of course Snappy remembered "no kitty". No kitty No kitty No kitty! The thing was that her need for kitty overwhelmed her need to please her mother. A moral dilemma she often loses. No. Not often. Always. Still. I'm sure she remembers..because for a split second before she grabs the cat's ass...she hesitates. Unless I'm already coming after her...then she does not hesitate but instead grabs cat ass faster and with more gusto because she knows she won't have time to savor it. I explain this to the researchers but they decide to go ahead with the study anyways.

So in the first part. Snappy sits in a chair and two "toys" are dropped from the ceiling. The researcher points to one toy and talks about how wonderful and fun it is while ignoring the other. Then we take a break...Snappy laughs hysterically while playing with a ball...and it's back to the chair. The toys again descend and the researcher sits perfectly still and hangs her head down (it was eerily reminiscent of that scene in Blair Witch Project...not the oft parodied shnoogie scene but the one where the dude is standing in the corner and you don't know if he's alive or dead). Will Snappy go for the the right toy? She does. And then she goes for the other toy so she'll have one for each hand. And then she decided the researcher was wrong about the first toy and dropped it. Free will having won was on to the next test.

This is a test you might have seen before, it's the one where they put a toy under a piece of cloth and then see if the baby remembers that the toy has gone under the cloth. The baby is supposed to show this memory by picking up the cloth...thus revealing the toy and the baby's own briliance. The problem with this test is a little game called Peek a Boo. Snappy saw the toy. She liked the toy...sure, but when they put it underneath perfect squares of baby-head-sized cloth...she couldn't resist. She picked up the cloth and put it over her face, so that I could say "where's the baby?" Because she knows how I love to say "where's the baby?" Almost as much as I like to say "there she is! Phew. I thought she was stolen by a dingo."

The researcher smiled and said, "a lot of babies do that." Really? Do a lot of babies play peek a boo? This test was unfair! Just before I stomped off to petition the supreme court for a new memory test that doesn't discriminate against babies, the researcher said we should take a break so that Snappy could play with more toys and I could fill out more paper work (they had a list of about a hundred words...I was supposed to say which words Snappy understood. I think she understood about four of them. I claimed that she understood about 65...including hard words like tomorrow and werewithall). While I was lying on her behalf, Snappy refused to play with the toys. She wanted to sit in my lap and beg for my pen. There are only two things I won't let Snappy play with: pens and knives. Because if I will leave a semi-permanent mark to tell the world of my lax parenting.

"Say," I say. "Could you do the test with a pen instead?" A pen? Sure why not? So they set up the test again. This time Snappy was on point. When they put the pen under the cloth she immediatly picked it up and grabbed her prize. They tried to fool her. They put it under a different cloth. Snappy wasn't fooled. They put it under one cloth and then quickly moved it to another, different cloth. Still Snappy was not fooled! If the cap had been offthat pen, she surely would've scribbled WINNER across her forehead. (So it was a good thing it was because that would've been hard to explain.)

She was victorious! In your face, science of human development! Just to show that there were no hard feelings, she waved baye bye to the researchers when she noticed we were leaving. The researchers were pleased...once I pointed out that she was actually waving bye bye because her bye bye wave is pretty subtle. She's a very nonchalant baby. Which is why, on the BART ride home, no one else noticed when she waved bye bye to each and every person who got on or off the train all the way from Berkeley to the Daly City. Then she celebrated her victory by eating cheese crackers and throwing a fit when it was time to go back in her stroller. I guess she thinks strollers are for losers. I said, "Oh no Snappy. Strollers are for closers! Strollers are for closers."

*Don't worry. They put a piece of clear plexi-glass placed over the cliff. Like in that Cars video. Magic.


Anonymous said...

That baby clif things sounds traumatic for anyone.

And clearly Snaps is an opener--just like her Aunt Leslie....

- Aunt Leslie

Jess said...

I have just discovered your blog and am in love. This made me laugh so hard that I cried and peed a little. Thanks. I needed it. (the laugh...not so much the pee.)