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Lab-TAB (Locomotor)

Table of Contents

Fear Episodes
Distress Episodes
Exuberance Episodes
Interest/Persistence Episodes
Activity Level Episodes
Inhibitory Control Episodes
Contentment Episodes

Fear Episodes

Scary Mask

In this episode, a familiar friendly and female stranger wears a wolf mask.  When the child enters the room, the friendly stranger is facing away from him/her.  She turns and engages the child in scripted conversation.  The incongruity of the familiar female voice with the wolf mask will elicit fear in children.

Jumping Spider

The experimenter brings in a “cage” containing a large, life-like spider sitting in a bed of moss.  The spider is attached to a small air pump that, when pushed, causes the spider to jump.  The experimenter invites the child to pet the spider.  When he/she touches the spider, it jumps.  This elicits surprise and fear in children.

Risk Room

The child plays in a room filled with slightly "threatening" stimuli.  For example, a gorilla mask, a cloth tunnel and balance beam.  This task s based on Jerome Kagan's work on behavioral inhibition.

Stranger Approach

An unfamiliar male approaches the child and attempts to engage him/ her in conversation.  The child is faced with a novel, slightly threatening person while alone in the room.  This situation tends to elicit social inhibition.

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Distress Episodes

Attractive Toy in Transparent Box

The child is asked to select one of two attractive toys to play.  The experimenter then places the toy in a Plexiglas box and locks it with a small padlock.  She gives the child a set of keys and tells him/her that when he/she finds the key that opens the box, he/she can play with the toy.  However, none of the keys fit the lock.  This game is expected to elicit frustration (anger and/or sadness).

Impossibly Perfect Green Circles

Based on Katherine Horner’s work, where young children who were asked to draw a figure repeatedly became angry and bored, children are asked to draw circles over and over again for three and one half minutes.  After each drawing attempt, the experimenter points out some minor flaw (e.g., too round, too pointy) and asks the child to draw another circle.

Box Empty

The experimenter gives a present box to the child and leaves him/ her alone to open it.  When the child opens the present, s/he discovers that the box is empty.  This episode elicits disappointment.

Not Sharing

An assistant brings a bag of candy and asks the experimenter to share it equally with the child.  Experimenter divides up the candy in a way to give more to herself than the child.  Social expectations of "fairness" are violated when the child does not receive half of the candy.

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Exuberance Episodes

Make that Car Go

In this game, the experimenter and child play together with a remote-control racetrack.  The fast pace and creative nature of play are expected to evoke exuberance.


This episode is divided into two phases.  In the first, the experimenter teaches the child how to blow bubbles from a bubble gun.  In the second phase, the experimenter invites the child to pop bubbles she blows in a way that encourages high-energy approach and positive affect.

Pop-up Snakes

Child surprises parent with a "candy" can actually containing pup-up snakes.  Exuberance is elicited in children this age when they can play a trick on the parent.

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Interest/Persistence Episodes


The child watches a set of 12 slides of various items such as flowers, volcanoes and babies.  Children vary in the amount of attention paid to slides.

Perpetual Motion

 In this episode, children are invited to play with a space wheel toy.  This toy consists of a small silver spinner that rests on two plastic tracks on a plastic base.  Like the other interest/persistence tasks, some children will enjoy the toy for a full three minutes while others become bored.

Bead Sorting

Child is asked to sort red, white and blue beads into different containers.  Sorting items by color can be a boring, mundane task.  Thus, this episode provides an opportunity to observe task persistence.

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Activity Level Episodes

Arc of Toys

An arc of enticing, age-appropriate toys is placed around the room.  Children can express differences in gross and fine motor skills through their play with these toys.

Hippity Hop

Children play on a large, multi-color bouncing ball with a handle.  The experimenter demonstrates how the toy works, and then leaves the child to play with it as he/she wishes.


Child plays with a small wooden workbench with many unique parts.  This episode allows the child to manipulate various objects on the workbench.  The intensity of manipulation determines activity level.

Fidgeting Video

In this episode, the child is shown a three-minute segment of a cartoon video.  This episode provides a measure of the child’s activity level when no overt, activity-eliciting stimuli are present.  While children attend to the video, differences in fidgeting become apparent.

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Inhibitory Control Episodes

The three episodes listed here are based on Grazyna Kochanska's work on inhibitory control.

Tower of Patience

In this episode, the child and the experimenter build a tower with large cardboard blocks.  The child is told that he/she and the experimenter will take turns adding a block to the tower.  Between each turn, the experimenter waits for longer time increments before adding a block.  Individual differences in impulsivity should be apparent by the child’s behaviors present during the waiting period.

Snack Delay

The child is asked to wait for the experimenter's signal before eating a chocolate snack within reach.  In several trials, the duration of wait is varied.

Dinky Toys

The child is allowed to pick two toys from a container of attractive trinkets.  Child must limit him/herself to selecting only two toys from many.

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Contentment Episodes

Story time

In this game, the experimenter shows the child a storybook with pictures (no words) and asks the child to tell her what happens in the book.  Then, the child is invited to tell the story to his/her Mom or Dad.  This task aims to create a feeling of warmth and affiliation between the parent and child.  The story is light and humorous, and should provide a pleasurable activity.

Making a Bookmark

The child decorates a construction paper animal shape with ink stamps and markers.  This activity is solitary and quiet, and elicits calm enjoyment from most children.

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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