Doing developmental science using remote research

Over the last three years, our lab (Conceptual Development and Social Cognition Lab at NYU) has been developing an approach for doing unmoderated remote research with children.

Our approach presents studies that children, on their own or with minimal assistance from their parents, can complete remotely from a computer, with data recorded by widely available online experimental testing software and the families’ webcam. We call this approach unmoderated because children and families do not directly interact with researchers at all. This differentiates our approach from those that rely on videoconferencing between the experimenter and participating family.

On this website, we detail our strategies for conducting unmoderated remote research. This website will continue to be updated with additional content, but currently includes everything that we think you need to get a study launched online. The information on this website is designed to be useful for developing unmoderated remote research studies to host on a range of different platforms. We are currently able to host studies for a limited number of labs, and hope to open this up more generally soon. In the meantime, we hope this website will be useful for labs figuring out how to get started with unmoderated remote research.

In addition to this website, we provide more details on our experience conducting online research in our pre-print, Advancing developmental science via unmoderated remote research with children. This includes the benefits of conducting unmoderated remote research, the types of studies we think can thrive from this medium of research, and detailed information about the samples we have been able to recruit online.

How our lab conducts remote research

Each of these guides provides the steps that our lab takes to design and run studies online. In many cases, we provide the exact language or materials that we use. Any of these materials are free for you to use for research purposes!

If you adapt these materials when developing your own online studies, all we ask is that you please cite our pre-print:
Rhodes, M., Rizzo, M. T., Foster-Hanson, E., Moty, K., Leshin, R. A., Wang, M., Benitez, J., & Ocampo, J. D. (2020). Advancing developmental science via unmoderated remote research with children. Journal of Cognition and Development , 21(4): 477-493.


We encourage other labs to adopt Open Science practices. If you choose to pre-register your study, this is the language we use for studies conducted online

Sample IRB language

Here is the language we use when seeking IRB approval for unmoderated remote research.

Animating studies

This step-by-step guide details how to adapt an in-person study for remote research, from how we modify existing scripts for unmoderated research, to how we prepare and animate stimuli.

Setting up child-friendly studies on Qualtrics

This guide details how our lab uses Qualtrics (an online survey platform) to present our animated studies in a child-friendly manner.

Hosting studies using Discoveries Online

Ready to host a study online? Here's how to get your study running using our online platform.

Processing webcam video data using Datavyu

Webcam videos assure the quality of our data, but are also a rich data source in and of themselves. Here's how our lab uses Datavyu and Databrary to get the most out of these videos.

The role of parents in unmoderated research

Unmoderated remote research provides both unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to how parents are involved in studies. Here's how our lab has been thinking about it in our own research.

Sample recruitment materials

These are the materials that our lab has used to recruit families.

What kind of developmental research can be done remotely?

Based on our experience, we have found a number of types of studies appropriate for unmoderated remote research. Some examples of the kinds of tasks we have done or are currently running are:

Children's knowledge of science

Children's beliefs about science

Causal explanations

Object vs relational reasoning

Beliefs about homogeneity

Pragmatic Reasoning

Full demo available here.