Research Projects

Current Research 

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RULES AND REGULARITIES

How do children figure out which behaviors are rules that are important to follow versus regularities (e.g., girls have long hair) that they can choose to follow or not? One way they might do this is paying attention to others’ reactions when a rule or regularity is violated (e.g., a girl with short hair). To test this hypothesis, we teach children a novel game and then show them a video of people violating the rules to that game. We then test how children play the game themselves and how they react to others’ violations of the game. This game takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.  

GENDER COGNITION

Children often see gender norms as rules that are set in stone. Of course, they also see examples of people breaking gender norms in their everyday lives. The goal of the study is to learn more about children’s understanding of gender norm violations and how they think about people who break these norms. To address this question, we describe made-up children who either conform to gender norms or who violate gender norms and walk participants through vignettes in which they have to guess how the made-up children will behave. This study takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Past Research

MEMORY AND GENERALIZATION

In this line of research, we investigate how cues to the generality of a learning episode (i.e., whether or not the information applies to a social group) affect children’s memory for the episode and, in turn, how those memory traces support generalization.

RELEVANT PAPERS:

STATISTICAL REASONING AND GENERALIZATION

Especially for young children, it is not always obvious whether information is general or specific. For example, a child who observes her mother drinking coffee every morning could infer that many adults or mothers drink coffee, or alternatively, that this is a specific habit or preference of her mother. We are interested in how children employ ‘bottom-up’ processes such as statistical reasoning to surmount this inference problem.

RELEVANT PAPERS:
  • Social Statistics: Children employ statistical reasoning in their inferences about the scope of social behavior. Under review.

GENERALIZATION OF INFORMATION LEARNED FROM TEXTBOOKS

In this line of research, we investigate how children and adults generalize concepts presented in textbooks. Many textbooks present principles in “real-world” contexts in an effort to increase student motivation and engagement. One common method for implementing this involves introducing a mathematics strategy as “belonging” to a sample student (e.g., “Tim’s strategy”). We have found that this practice cues students to interpret the strategy as specific to the person presenting it, making it difficult for students to generalize those strategies to contexts in which the people are absent.

RELEVANT PAPERS:

THE ROLE OF NORMS IN EARLY SOCIAL COGNITION

Children’s inductive learning of norms is especially complex because norms are both inherently arbitrary and strongly prescriptive—they lack causal significance but are highly adaptive for children to acquire. Our research investigates normative learning by asking how children use their specific experiences with norms as a basis for their own actions and their expectations of others’ actions.

RELEVANT PAPERS: