Psychology exhibit draws big crowds at USA Science Expo
More than 2,500 children and adults learned about cognitive development research at an exhibit jointly sponsored by the American Psychological Association and the Museum of Science, Boston, at the recent USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo. That was the number of people (as counted with a clicker by staff) who directly engaged in or watched demonstrations of tasks used in recent psychological research on cognitive development. The exhibit was titled “The Science of Kids: Ask, Play, Learn!”
Two tasks drawn from the laboratory of MIT psychologist Laura Schulz were demonstrated: one from studies of how children think about physical objects and the other from studies of how children make inferences on the basis of language. Schulz is a collaborator in the Museum’s Living Laboratory, in which Boston area child development researchers conduct studies and discuss their work with the public.
Graduate students studying cognition and development at local universities (Catholic University, George Mason University, Georgetown University, Howard University, and University of Maryland) served as interpreters at the exhibit. APA and Museum staff managed the exhibit.
Marta Biarnes, supervisor of the Living Laboratory, noted, “This exhibit was a success primarily because of the graduate students. They were able to fully engage both younger and older children in the tasks. And with adults they did a beautiful job of explaining and answering questions about how the tasks help us to understand the development of thinking.”
The exhibit was one of a handful to feature behavioral science research among the more than 500 exhibits sponsored by academic institutions, government agencies, professional societies, and corporations.
The Expo was held on April 27-29, 2012, in the Washington D.C. Convention Center, with the first day open mainly to school groups and the second and third days open to the general public. A conservative estimate placed overall attendance at the Expo at about 150,000.