Joseph Campos is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology. His research focuses on two major issues: one deals with developmental transitions in infancy, and the second on emotional development. His work on developmental transitions centers on the consequences of motoric activity for psychological development. When infants begin to crawl, they undergo a remarkable set of advances in spatial cognitive, perceptual, emotional, and social functioning. The studies his is now conducting address whether the onset of self-produced locomotion is a cause, or instead a maturational coincidence, of these changes. The issue of causality is being addressed by using an randomized-control design. More specifically, infants are randomly assigned to one of three conditions: 1) one condition whereby the infants can actively control his or her own movement via an electric "go-cart" 2) a second condition whereby the infants receive the same amount of movement without self control and 3) a third condition whereby the infants receive no "go-cart" training. After active or passive movement experience, infants are compared on performance in a variety of perceptual, cognitive and emotional tests.
He is also engaged in studies of infants whose motor development is significantly delayed for ecological, physiological or medical intervention issues. The point of this line of work is to determine whether delays in locomotion onset result in delays in psychological development followed by spurts in such development following the delayed acquisition of locomotion. The study addresses the role of the age of onset of locomotion, the duration of locomotor experience, and their interaction on psychological development.
A very recent line of work centers on the discovery that, with the acquisition of walking, infants show highly significant spurts in both receptive and productive language––something hitherto unsuspected, but now replicated in Berkeley and in China.