My research explores...

how children and adults learn about different kinds of people, animals, and objects in the world.
I'm particularly interested in how we learn about the world through what other people tell us.

The unintended consequences
of the things we say

Adults frequently use generic language (e.g., "boys play sports”) to communicate about social groups to children. These statements make direct claims about the mentioned group (e.g., boys), but studies with Marjorie Rhodes suggests that they also communicate information about unmentioned kinds (e.g., that girls are not good at sports). By 4.5 years of age, children infer that things said in generic statements are not true of salient contrastive groups not explictly mentioned.

The strategies we use to gather evidence to learn about the world

Adults prefer to sample evidence from diverse sources (e.g., looking at a robin and an ostrich to see if something true of birds). Children under age 9, however, often do not consider sample diversity, treating non-diverse samples (e.g., two robins) and diverse samples as equally informative. Work with Emily Foster-Hanson and Marjorie Rhodes shows that children and adults have different standards for evaluating evidence: younger children prefer to learn from examples that best approximate what category members should be like (e.g., the fastest cheetahs), with a shift across age toward samples that cover more variation (e.g., cheetahs of varying speeds).

The impact of language in the media on stereotypes and polarization

Generic language plays a powerful role in transmitting social stereotypes by promoting support for social essentialism (i.e., beliefs that social groups are inherently different), consequently increasing endorsement of social stereotypes and negatively impacting inter-group relations. I am currently examining the use of generic language in the media, both in the news and on social media, to (1) measure the frequency of generic use on these mediums and (2) examine the cognitive, social, and political consequences of hearing generics in these contexts.

Next

I develop tools for developmental psychologists

Toku is a free, open-source research tool for designing fully-animated behavioral studies. Built-in features allow researchers to design most studies without any prior programming experience. Studies designed with this tool can be run on devices that young kids are familiar with (e.g., iPads, tablets, and even phones), and can be launched anywhere with an internet connection (an offline mode is available, too). Studies are shareable with other researchers, providing a smooth process for collaboration and study replication. This application is currently in use across several studies in our lab, and we hope to have it launched for others to use soon.

Learn more about Toku
Next

I like to teach others about R

I taught an 8-week workshop for absolute beginners to learn the fundamentals of R needed to manipulate, visualize, and describe data. This workshop had a particular emphasis on producing clean and reproducible code in line with coding and open science best practices. The syllabus, readings, and online exercise are available online.

Get started with R