Faculty of Education, Child Psychology Laboratory

Observing the "heart" of children as a researcher and a kindergarten principal Faculty of Education, Child Psychology Laboratory

Faculty of Education, Child Psychology Laboratory

-Nakazawa Laboratory-

The period of infancy is when a child develops such human abilities as "walking," "speaking" and "thinking." Child Psychology Laboratory is conducting research on the development process during that period from a psychological standpoint.
We interviewed Professor Jun Nakazawa of the Laboratory who is also serving as the principal of the kindergarten attached to Chiba University.

Jun Nakazawa

Professor of Faculty of Education of Chiba University, Principal of Kindergarten attached to Chiba University.

Graduated from the doctoral course (psychology) of Hiroshima University Graduate School of Education. Specializing in developmental psychology and child psychology.
Conducting research on friend relationships and emotional control of children, psychological development of children with congenital heart disease and reading comprehension of comic books as well.

Professor Nakazawa, you are studying child psychology and developmental psychology.
Why did you take up these subjects from among the various fields of psychology?

When I was studying psychology as a university student, the mainstream was behaviorist psychology. This psychology studies "behavior" that is observable externally, and analyzes the behavior based on the conditional relations between stimulations and reactions.
Through one study in this field regarding shift discrimination learning, I found out that there is a difference between the mechanisms of learning in the first and second half of the infancy period.
In the first half of infancy when conceptual ability has not yet been developed, a child learns in a simple process similar to animals (like rats or pigeons).
But in the second half, he acquires concept through his experience and linguistic development, and begins to demonstrate the same learning pattern as an adult. In just a few years, an infant makes great progresses in their ability to "walk," "speak" and "think."
Therefore, the infancy period contains such elements that make a child a human, and I thought that I might be able to find an answer to the question "what is a human" by studying this period of human life.
That was the starting point of my research career. Additionally, it has been found out that an infant has advanced understanding and learning abilities.
The infant research is the most advanced region of psychology where we can meet new "findings," one after another.

Specifically speaking, what are you studying currently?

I am now studying the cognitive and emotional control ability, which is the basis of behaviors that influence children's friend relationships.
I am also involved in an international joint research with Riken, US NIMH, and Italy for studying emotional reactions induced when looking at an infant's face or hearing an autistic child crying.
We are checking the changes in face surface temperature using infrared thermography since emotional changes affect body temperature. We have obtained some intriguing results such as differences between Japan and Italy or correlations between emotional control ability and acquisition of adaptive ability.
We are also working together with some other pediatric departments belonging to faculty of education to create a Japanese version of "The Bayley Scales of Infant Development" which are used internationally for examining children's development.
I think this project will effectively publicize the positive results of the developmental research and pediatric care conducted in Japan.

Professor Nakazawa, you are also working as the principal of the university's kindergarten in addition to conducting your research as a professor.

It is the third year of my being the principal, and I truly feel that the kindergarten attached to Chiba University is placed in a fine environment.
First of all, it is surrounded physically by rich nature, but at the same time it enjoys a favorable connection with the university.
In addition to university students' teaching practice sessions, classes of faculty of education are sometimes held in this kindergarten. Our child education students and the kindergarten are jointly holding a workshop open to public on a regular basis.
Many of the kindergarten staff members used to be my students, so we know each other well. A number of parents send their children to attend this kindergarten due to its excellent environment, and I take great pride in that.

Last of all, please give a message to the students.

Being involved in "learning" both at a university and a kindergarten, I have found one thing common to both, that is, what is important for the learners is to create "learning" on their own. Look at children.
They greedily seek answers for their questions and make efforts to overcome what they cannot do, which directly promote their growth. It is the same with the study and research at a university.
The students can gain a lot by looking for what they want to do and trying to solve what they do not understand.
The students of Chiba University are superbly quick on the uptake, so I would like them to explore the field of learning with the initiative to learn on their own.

Preparing for "The Bayley Scales of Infant Development" to be undertaken shortly by post-graduates. Modifying the test tools for Japanese children.

Teaching practice for students in the pre-school education course is conducted in the kindergarten.
The practicing students observe children's behaviors to understand them for providing instruction as a teacher.

Scene of Kindergarten attached to Chiba University.
In rich nature, children are freely playing.