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Lab-TAB (Locomotor)

Table of Contents

Fear Episodes
Anger Episodes
Joy/Pleasure Episodes
Interest/Persistence Episodes
Activity Level Episodes

Fear Episodes

Remote Controlled Spider

A large, remote controlled spider enters the room unexpectedly and approaches the child.  The elements of novelty, uncertainty and intrusiveness, as well as a possible fear of animals, should elicit varying degrees of fear.

Unpredictable Mechanical Toy

A noisy and unpredictable remote controlled toy dog approaches the child in a relatively nonsocial setting.  The elements of novelty and intrusiveness should elicit signs of fear.  Given the context, the stimulus is relatively inescapable.  Repeated trials should allow observations of change in reactivity.

Stranger Approach

An adult male stranger will approach and stare at the child in a standardized fashion.  The elements of novelty and intrusiveness should elicit various degrees of fearful distress and avoidance.


Previous research has indicated that the incongruity inherent in viewing a mask elicits fear in some children.  This episode provides such an opportunity for the expression of fear in a non-social context with relatively mild, non-intrusive stimulation.          

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Anger Episodes

Gentle Arm Restraint by Parent

Anger often occurs in response to physical or psychological restraint.  In this episode, the child's opportunity to play with a toy, which is novel and interesting enough to induce a strong desire to play, is interrupted by physical restraint from the mother.  The expression of anger is coded as verbal and physical action directed against the restraint.

Attractive Toy Placed Behind Barrier

The purpose of this episode is to elicit frustration and anger by placing a toy, with which the child has been playing, behind a barrier.  This action is representative of the type of frustration a child typically encounters when exploration or play is blocked.  Anger is coded as verbal and physical action against the barrier or persons present.

Maternal Separation

The purpose of this episode is to provide an opportunity for the expression of anger.  Previous research on attachment has shown anger to be the dominant negative emotional response to maternal separation.

Restraint in Car Seat

Being physically restrained or compelled to do something against one's wishes can elicit anger.  Placing the child in a car seat is intended to elicit mild anger responses in some children.  Because car seats are required by law, the experience is common and should possess ecological validity.

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Joy/Pleasure Episodes

Reaction To Sound and Light Display (Big Simon)

This episode measures the child's pleasure in response to a nonsocial stimulus.

Puppet Game

This episode measures enjoyment in response to social stimulation.  The use of puppets allows a more standardized social interaction than is possible when the mother has a prominent role.

Cognitive Assimilation Game (Train)

This episode measures pleasure resulting from the child's sense of accomplishment by assimilating a task through personal effort.

Modified Peek-A-Boo Game

This episode measures pleasure in response to social stimulation.  The episode has ample precedent in developmental research.  The operationalization of the peek-a-boo game in Lab-TAB minimizes the variance that might be attributable to maternal behavioral differences, since mothers follow a script in this version of peek-a-boo.

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Interest/Persistence Episodes

Task Orientation (Blocks)

This episode provides an opportunity for the child to manipulate a set of blocks.  Blocks can facilitate a wide variety of responses.  All children are capable of many of these responses; therefore, the primary determinant of differences in amount of manipulation of the blocks is motivation.  In this episode, motivation is equated with the emotion of interest and, in particular, with its duration parameter, persistence.

Toy Interest Game (Little Simon)

Whereas other nonsocial interest-eliciting episodes require manipulation of objects or attention to visual displays, this episode elicits interest with an electronic sound and light display.  The stimulation is considered to be novel, but non-threatening.

Person Interest

In contrast to episodes using inanimate stimuli, this episode examines interest in a social context where a female experimenter acts out a scripted set of behaviors in the presence of the child.  The child's interest in the person's activities is measured.

Attention To Repeated Visual Stimulation (Slides)

This episode provides an opportunity for the expression of interest in a non social context.  External sources of distraction are minimized in a habituation-like procedure.  The child views a series of slides projected onto a screen; there is no auditory stimulation.  The episode provides measures of sustained visual attention under highly controlled circumstances.

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Activity Level Episodes

Corral Enclosure

This episode provides a novel, non-threatening, non-social situation for measuring motoric activity.  The rubber balls that fill the corral enclosure afford opportunities for a variety of highly energetic activities.  Thus, the episode may differentiate active children who might be coded near the ceiling on other episodes.

Peg/Shape Manipulation

This episode measures the fine motor aspect of activity level.  Of interest are the child's hand movements while manipulating a pegboard and a shapeboard.  Task demands are within the cognitive abilities of virtually all children in the intended age range.

Fidgeting (Video)

This episode provides a measure of the child's activity level during a period in which no overt, activity-eliciting stimuli are present.  The episode elicits quiet attention with a video presentation.  While attending to the video presentation, individual differences in fidgeting are apparent.  Many children disregard the video after a time, affording the opportunity for supplemental activity measures.

Free Play

The purpose of this episode is to provide a measure of activity level when several different types of toys are available for play.  The child's (C) movement is relatively unrestrained in this episode;  therefore, the measures obtained may depend less on situational constraints than on other activity level measures.  Measures of both vigor and lability of activity are included.

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University of Wisconsin-Madison :: Department of Psychology :: Waisman Center
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Psychology Department, University of WI, Madison
Waisman Center, UW Madison