Natural behavior in everyday settings

Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Mackenzie S. Swirbul, Kristy H. Lai

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Infant behaviors—walking, vocalizing, playing, interacting with others, and so on—offer an unparalleled window into learning and development. The study of infants requires strategic choices about what to observe, where, when, and how. We argue that loosening study constraints—by allowing infants and caregivers to do whatever they choose, wherever they choose, and with whatever materials they choose—promises to reveal a deep understanding of the everyday data on which learning builds. We show that observations of infants’ natural behavior yield unique insights into the nature of visual exploration, object play, posture and locomotion, proximity to caregiver, and communication. Furthermore, we show that by situating the study of behavior in ecologically-valid settings, researchers can gain purchase on the contextual regularities that frame learning. We close by underscoring the value of studies at every point on the research continuum—from cleverly controlled lab-based tasks to fully natural observations in everyday environments. Acceleration in the science of behavior rests on leveraging expertise across disciplines, theoretical positions, and methodological approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Child Development and Behavior
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Publication series

NameAdvances in Child Development and Behavior
ISSN (Print)0065-2407


  • Communication
  • Home environment
  • Infancy
  • Infant-caregiver interaction
  • Language development
  • Locomotion
  • Natural behavior
  • Object play

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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