Our Research

The ability to understand and navigate the social world is central to everyday life. The way that we think about other people governs our interpersonal interactions across a broad range of contexts: from a trip to the grocery store, to a family dinner, or a night out with friends.

Our research investigates the origins of social cognition and social behavior in infants and young children. We are keenly interested in what children understand about the social world and how they develop this understanding. Part of our research investigates how and when infants and young children develop causal frameworks for understanding other people's behavior. Adults and older children can reason about other people's behavior in terms of motivational and mental states, in terms of preferences and dispositions, and in terms of social conventions and moral norms. How and when do infants begin to utilize these different frameworks? Other aspects of our research investigates how children learn about and detect social categories and social structure, and how these factors influence infants' and children's social behavior. In many cases, we are interested in both domain-specific developments in the social domain, as well as how domain-general factors contribute to infants' understanding of the social world (e.g., memory, causal understanding, etc).

Our research investigates the origins of social cognition and social behavior in infants and young children. We are keenly interested in what children understand about the social world and how they develop this understanding. Part of our research investigates how and when infants and young children develop causal frameworks for understanding other people's behavior. Adults and older children can reason about other people's behavior in terms of motivational and mental states, in terms of preferences and dispositions, and in terms of social conventions and moral norms. How and when do infants begin to utilize these different frameworks? Other aspects of our research investigates how children learn about and detect social categories and social structure, and how these factors influence infants' and children's social behavior. In many cases, we are interested in both domain-specific developments in the social domain, as well as how domain-general factors contribute to infants' understanding of the social world (e.g., memory, causal understanding etc).

Much of our work in the last several years has focused on the development of children's sociomoral concerns (e.g., when and how do infants and children understand distributive fairness?), and their sociomoral behavior (e.g., what motivates infants' and children's prosocial behavior?). In this work, one of our primary goals is to better understand the representations that underlie infants' responses to events that adults and older children view as sociomoral transgressions, and to better understand when and why infants are motivated to act in ways that appear prosocial.

Across all of these topics, we are interested in how children's understanding of the social world comes about. That is, what sorts of mechanisms and experiences drive children's social understanding? We are also interested in the emergence and proliferation of individual differences in children's social understanding and social behavior. To address these questions, we use a combination of techniques that include behavioral approaches (e.g., infants' attention to social events, infants' active choices of social partners, infants' use of touch screens to evaluate events, etc.), and psychophysical approaches (e.g., EEG, ERP, pupil dilation, etc.).

>