Museum of Science, Boston

Research in the Human Body Connection

Many different kinds of scientists engage in the "study of people". Scientists in a variety of disciplines have been conducting research at the Museum of Science, including many who study human biology.

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Can you read someone's mind from their face?

When you look at another person’s face, what kinds of feelings can you see? In this study, we explore how many different feelings people can see in others’ facial expressions.

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Do children remember their teammates better than their rivals?

Many social factors can influence how well adults remember faces. Previous research has shown that adults are best at remembering the faces of members of their social group – including members of their own race or gender. They’re also better at identifying the emotions of members of their group. Even when adults are randomly assigned to a made-up team (e.g., the “blue” or “green” team), they are better at remembering their teammates’ faces than faces from the other team. In this study, we want to know whether children show the same tendencies.

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How does a person’s social identity influence others’ expectations of them?

Past research has found that some aspects of one’s social identity can affect how that person is treated by others. For example, stereotypes can influence people’s behavior during social interactions. This project explores the ways that diverse settings might affect the way people think, feel, and behave in social situations, and might influence their expectations of other people.

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How do we make decisions about others' emotions?

Imagine that you walk into your kitchen, and a family member is frowning slightly. How do you decide what they are feeling? What would happen if you thought they were OK when they were really very angry? Or if you thought that they were angry when they weren’t?

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Are there more of YOU or THEM?

Imagine standing in a crowd of people who support a cause that you believe in. Now imagine standing in a crowd of people who support the opposing side. Which crowd seems bigger? Previous research suggests that your emotional involvement can influence your estimation of the size of each group. In this study, we want to find out how membership in a group influences your numerical judgments.

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How do we "read" others emotions?

If you’re wondering how someone is feeling, a smile or a scowl may give you a lot of information. Facial expressions are often the most obvious sign that someone is feeling happy, sad, or angry. But you may not realize how much information you are getting from other types of cues, like the environment, the context, or the words you are seeing or hearing. Because words allow us to generalize and label things, they may affect how we perceive and categorize other things that we see.

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Is drawing ability related to children’s visual and spatial skills?

Our research has shown that children who learn to draw objects realistically are also able to look at a complex visual image and mentally break it up into smaller parts. We refer to this as “local” processing. We now want to find out whether drawing skills are also associated with the ability to look at a complex visual image and grasp its overall structure. We refer to this as “global” processing.

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What do children believe about artificial life?

Children are growing up in a computational culture, and have been exposed to a variety of digital objects and virtual worlds. This study examines how children’s ideas about human life may be shifting due to familiarity with technology.