What’s Under the Blanket? A Kitten? A Couple Having Sex?
We were invited to write a chapter on ‘Intraindividual Variability Over the Life Span”. The editors provided us an opportunity for new “outside the box” explorations. So we started pulling together some of the things we have been playing with in the last months.
The emo-devo landscapes, in addition to being fun to look at, opened the door on a “spatial” world. Seeking to create particular types of worlds we built some data simulation. These simulation engines allowed us to control the distributional properties of the data and how they changed over (macro) time. We got pretty exciting about how they allow us to supplement and move beyond some of the limitations present in our empirical data (e.g., short, unequally spaced time-series). It was clear they were already shining light on potential futures – data that we did not yet have. We started exploring these new worlds. Working from the existing literature – studies that had analyzed intensive longitudinal micro time-scale data obtained from age-heterogeneous samples, and in some cases studies that had collected repeated bursts of measurement (i.e., using multiple time-scale designs), We started creating synthetic data that would map the literature. In the example animation below, based on materials from the chapter, we construct something like a speculative “life span.”
First we worked directly from the density-distribution approach we used in the emo-devo landscapes, but, there wasn’t much empirical literature to lean on there. The biggest set was in the intraindividual variability of reaction times. Filling in some of the holes in the literature (and putting it together with knowledge of age-relation differentiation of cognitive abilities – intraindividual covariation) – we simulated intraindividual variability over the life span. The resulting data – displayed as a landscape produces a ridge in early “life” that decreases through midlife and then increases again through older adulthood, altogether as a “twisting” distribution that changes over time and generates variations in form. We had created what our mentors have referred to as “the developmental fabric”.
As we watched this animation over and over – we were struck by how the fabric undulated – What is under the blanket? One of us mused that it looks like there is a kitten under the blanket. Another of us thought that it looked like a couple having sex!
This sent us on an exploration – a search for models that make cool blankets!