Testing Guidelines

Whenever you are out in the field doing research, remember that you are representing the DoSC Lab, your supervisors, UCI, the field of developmental psychology, and even science! You may be the only researcher that a family comes into contact with, and their experience with you could define their trust and enthusiasm towards science and researchers. It is both a great responsibility and a great privilege to be able to represent our field to the broader community.

Rules for Off-Site Testing


General Rules:

1.    You should remember that you are always a representative of the lab. Please conduct yourself accordingly.


2.    Act and dress professionally. Casual dress is fine, but make sure your clothing is clean, free of political slogans, and suitable to interacting with young children. When possible, wear the lab T-shirt. At some sites, it may be required (check guidelines for each testing location).


3.    All members of the lab must wear nametags when testing in the field


4.    All time spent in the field must be spent actively recruiting or testing


5.    Off-site testing (parks, schools, museums) must include a minimum of 2 people. Do not go to these locations alone.


6.    If you work more than 3 hours, you can take a 20-30 minute break to regain your sanity. Step outside of the testing space and make sure that the testing space is covered by other researchers.


7.    No phones or emails during off-site testing. Testing time is screen-free time for several reasons: Parents and kids won’t approach you; you become less cognizant of your surroundings and miss opportunities; and it makes us look less professional. Set your phones on silent or vibrate. If you need to check your phone for emergencies or to regain your sanity, take a break and step out for a few minutes.


8.    Arrive at any location at least 15 minutes before your shift to set up. Do not arrive late. If you are stuck in an emergency (e.g., flat tire), make sure you are safe. As soon as you are in a safe location, contact the lab manager who will help contact the relevant authority to cancel the testing session.


9.    Other than minor colds and nuisances, do not show up to test children while sick. Take care of yourself first. But make sure to contact us ASAP, and arrange for someone else to take your testing shift that day. In return, it is generally polite to offer to swap shifts with them another time.




1.    Approach any parents you see and identify yourself with your first name and title (“researcher from the Development of Social Cognition Lab at UC – Irvine”).


2.    Don’t turn kids away who want to play – If they aren’t eligible, show them the studies, talk to parents about the lab, or give them a sticker to take home.


3.    Ask parents to sign contact sheets if they aren’t interested in a study right now, or hand out newsletters. Every opportunity to interact with parents is an important one, even if they don’t end up doing a specific study. You can always ask parents to sign up for in-lab studies using our recruitment signs, or give them a newsletter about our lab’s research.



1.    Parent or legal guardian must consent. If the person who brought the child in is not a legal guardian, we cannot use their data or test them. You can still offer the child an opportunity to play if they were excited to do so.


2.    Always give parents a copy of the consent form they have signed (keep the last page).


3.    Bring coloring materials for siblings to distract themselves.


4.    Let parents and siblings know that you will be asking the child for answers and you ask that they don’t instruct the child during this time.


5.    There should be 1 cameras + 1 audio device + 2 coders. Sometimes this isn’t possible. If not possible, here’s what you should do (in this order):

         a.    If there is no video consent, you should do audio consent + 2 coders

         b.    If there is no audio consent, you should do 2 coders only.

         c.    If there is video/audio consent, but not enough research assistants, have 1 camera + 1 coder

         d.    If there is video/audio consent but the study is complicated to code, have 1 camera only.

         e.    If there is no video/audio consent and the study is complicated to code, run the child in a different study.


6.    Make sure testing area is distraction free.


7.    Make sure to introduce yourself and any RAs in the scene so the child and parent knows they are supposed to be there.


8.    Stop the session if the child becomes uncomfortable, disruptive, or upset. Let the parent comfort the child. If the child seems unable or unwilling to continue, stop the session and say that we’ll try again another time. Always thank the child for participation, give them a prize (regardless of whether they finished the session), and move on.



1.    Make sure to give parents newsletters and/or short blurbs about our studies.


2.    Ask parents if they have any questions. Stick around to answer any outstanding questions we have.


3.    Never tell parents what is “normal” for a child’s age, or answer any diagnostic questions about a child’s abilities. We are not clinicians and we cannot answer these questions.


4.    Do not answer any questions you’re unsure about. Instead, write down their email and direct them to call or e-mail the lab manager or PI.


What to do when things go wrong (a side note: these things are VERY unlikely to happen. In the case that they do, you should know what to do):

1.    If anything about a place makes you feel unsafe, leave immediately. Call the police if you need to.


2.    If you suspect that a child is unsafe, talk to preschool staff, museum staff, or the police. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so in the moment, debrief with Nadia to discuss the next steps. 


3.    If parents are uncomfortable or have questions, direct them to e-mail or get in touch with the PI.


4.    If parents wish to revoke their consent after a child has started participating in the study, destroy the video and consent forms, and do not use that child’s data. Confirm with the parent that you will not be using their child’s data and have destroyed the relevant records.


5.    If any parks directors are uncomfortable with your presence, direct them to e-mail or get in touch with the PI.


6.    If you’re simply unsure, call Nadia (201-412-5200) for any emergencies.

Testing Locations:


Museums are a very important component of our data collection goals, and it is essential for us to maintain a good relationship with the museums where we test. With this in mind, it is always important for us to be present and be prepared during a museum visit. Always be courteous and respectful to the staff, parents and child participants. Families who have a good experience will continue to participate in our studies, may sign up for the database, and can spread their positive impression of our lab. We don't want families to complain about us to museum staff, or other families, and jeopardize our relationship with the museum - or our reputation (and the reputation of other UCI researchers). While you shouldn't try to accommodate parents at the expense of research, you should always behave in a professional and courteous manner.

Pretend City

Always wear your lab t-shirt and name badge whenever you are at Pretend City. Between 2-4 people can be at Pretend City at the same time, so if running multiple studies, coordinate personnel before leaving. When you arrive, make sure to check in at the front desk of Pretend City ("Hi, we're from the UC-Irvine Development of Social Cognition Lab"). We are allowed to set up in the STEAM Lab in Pretend City and staff from the front desk will escort you there or wave you in. If the space is not already set up, Pretend City staff, wearing blue shirts, will be able to help move things into or out of the space. Our lab will be one of the exhibits in the space, so parents and children may come up to explore. Once studies are set up, if parents and children are not approaching, you may walk around the Pretend City space and recruit participants using the recruiting guidelines.

Discovery Cube

Always wear your lab t-shirt and name badge whenever you are at Discovery Cube. Discovery Cube is 30 minutes away from the Lab, so always make sure to leave at least 30 minutes before the shift at DC begins. Between 2-3 people can be at Discovery Cube at the same time, so coordinate transportation before leaving. When you arrive at parking, let the parking attendant know that you are from UCI and they will allow you to park for free. The staff will recognize your t-shirts and will let you move freely through the space. We are allowed to set up in the conference room on the second floor in the employee only area. Head straight up there and start setting up; make sure to take note of how the conference room is set up so you can leave everything as you found it. Make sure to bring an extra non-moving chair (with no wheels) from the break room for child participants. Once studies are set up, you may walk around the second floor of DC and recruit participants using the recruiting guidelines.


School visits are crucial to our role as community members as well as our data collection goals. Each school has their own preferences for how we handle visits, so make sure to check each school's guidelines before the first visit. Always be professional and courteous; remember that the school is allowing us to use their space and that their support is essential for our research. Therefore, conduct your research in a way that causes the least inconvenience possible.

There are two kinds of school visits that the lab participates in: recruitment visits and testing visits. During recruitment visits, you will mostly interact with the parents. Remain professional: do not use your phone in the school, and talk to parents about the research whenever possible, even if they do not sign the consent forms. 

During testing visits, you will interact more with teachers and with child participants. Be as minimally disruptive as possible when pulling children out of the class for testing. Each school will have their own guidelines for pulling children out of the class, so familiarize yourself with these guidelines before the visit. Teachers play a crucial role in familiarizing parents and children with the research and the lab: their recommendation is a valuable asset to increasing the number of child participants we have. Not only will parents be more likely to consent, children will be much more trusting of lab members, and therefore easier to run, if teachers are willing to bridge that relationship. As always, make sure the children enjoy their visit. Give each participant a sticker after they finish the study and make sure they know to put their sticker inside their folder as soon as they get back to the classroom.

University Montessori

Always wear your lab t-shirt and name badge whenever you are at University Montessori. University Montessori is 10 minutes away from the Lab, so always make sure to leave at least 15 minutes before the shift at University Montessori begins. Between 2-3 people can be at University Montessori at the same time. As soon as you get to the school, check in with the director (Cecelia) in her office attached to the lobby entrance.

For recruiting visits, we are allowed to set up in the atrium right in front of the doors. We are allowed to use a large, foldable table that is stored in the closet attached to the atrium. After checking in with Cecelia, retrieve the table, and set up the forms and the prizes. Feel free to approach parents who are picking up their children if no one is approaching the table. The school closes at 6pm, and the last rush of parents usually ends around then. Pack up as quickly as possible after this rush as all school administrators also leave at 6pm. Return the table to the closet and leave everything as you found it. 

For testing visits, we are allowed to set up on the right hand side of the atrium next to the kitchen set. If you need extra chairs, you can take one or two from the other tables in the atrium. Testing visits end at 11:10am latest when the teachers start setting up at naptime. Make sure that you have enough time to run your last participant before they begin setting up. Always leave everything as you found it.