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Lab-TAB (Prelocomotor)

Table of Contents

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

Fear Episodes

Parasol Opening

A parasol opens fairly rapidly and without warning as the infant sits in an enclosed booth.  

Substantial research indicates that looming visual stimuli evoke startle reactions; however, the relation of startle and more conventional fear measures is less clear. Some infants also exhibit signs of fearfulness in this episode.  Elements of both novelty and intrusiveness are present. Repeated trials allow evaluation of changes in reactivity.

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.


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.

Toy Retraction

This episode provides an opportunity for the expression of anger by interrupting the exploration of a toy.  The context is interpersonal, and the situation can be viewed as a violation of social norms.

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 (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 (Pop-up Bunny)

This episode measures pleasure resulting from allowing the child to play with an attractive toy.

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.

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


This episode adds novel, low intensity toys to a familiar setting.  A wide range of motoric reactions is elicited; the actions include both movement on the quilt and manipulation of the toys.

Prone & Supine Placement

A measure of a child's activity during a situation where no overt activity-eliciting stimuli are present is provided by alternatively placing a child in the supine and prone positions.

Basket of Toys

This episode provides a measure of activity level during object-oriented play.  The child's trunk is supported so that maintaining access to the toys is not a problem.  Observed individual differences should reflect the rate and pattern of reaching and manipulation.

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Questions? Please see our Lab-TAB FAQ


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