Principal Investigator

Mahesh Srinivasan, Ph.D. [CV] [Research Statement]

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the Cognitive Science Faculty at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously, I was a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, San Diego. Before this, I received a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Harvard University in 2011, and received a B.S. in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University in 2005. Using empirical methods from developmental psychology and psycholinguistics, our lab's research explores how linguistic, cognitive, and social abilities arise and interact with one another during human development and across different cultures.

Lab Manager

Catherine Berner

Welcome! I am involved in many aspects of our research, so if you have any questions regarding our projects or working in the lab, please don't hesitate to reach out. I am currently studying the role of word flexibility in the language development of young children: how word flexibility influences children’s understanding of words that label objects and their construal of those object categories.

Graduate Students

Ruthe Foushee

As a graduate student in the LCD Lab, I am interested in what language learners can tell us about the composition of meaning, what their performance on linguistic tasks reveals about their conceptions of language itself, and the implications of those developing linguistic assumptions for methodologies in the field. Many of my projects explore how we negotiate the meaning of vague or subjective language in conversation, and how children leverage their implicit social and statistical knowledge to understand these terms. I am also interested in qualitative differences in linguistic input, experimental methods in linguistic fieldwork, sociolinguistic development, and applications of cognitive science in museums. I am grateful to be funded by the NSF GRFP and the Center for Childhood Creativity.


Monica Ellwood-Lowe

As a graduate student, I explore how variation in children's early social environments contributes to individual differences in their language use. I'm particularly interested in the ways that observed language differences might lead to worse academic performance for some children – particularly those of lower SES and/or racial/ethnic minority status – and how existing social structures may reinforce these patterns over time. I use cognitive, behavioral, and neuroimaging methods to help answer these questions. My graduate research is generously supported by the NSF GRFP and the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Fellowship.


Rebecca Zhu

What can children's word learning reveal about underlying conceptual structures? How might language facilitate the acquisition of abstract representations? In order to tackle these questions, I study children's comprehension of figurative language (i.e. metaphor, metonymy) as well as the relationship between language and other domains of cognitive development (i.e. kinds, number, relational reasoning). I am grateful to be funded by the Berkeley Fellowship.


Ariel Starr, Ph.D.

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the LCD Lab and in Dr. Silvia Bunge's Building Blocks of Cognition Lab. Previously, I received a PhD from Duke University in 2015 and a BA from Wesleyan University in 2007. I am interested in how children reason about numbers, space, and time. In collaboration with the LCD Lab, I am investigating how language and metaphor contribute to children's representations of these dimensions and the associations between them.


Hugh Rabagliati, Ph.D.

I am a Chancellor's Fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. I became interested in the science of child development as an undergraduate, spent many years training in developmental psychology in America, and returned to the UK to start the RabLab in 2013. I like hiking, pasta, and noodling around the ancient world with my classicist fiancée Monica. I dislike cutting my hair.


Nadya Vasilyeva, Ph.D.

I am a postdoctoral researcher working across three labs (Dr. Mahesh Srinivasan's Language and Cognitive Development Lab, Dr. Alison Gopnik's Cognitive Development Lab, and my primary advisor Dr. Tania Lombrozo's Concepts and Cognition Lab). In my research I explore connections between explanation, inductive inference, and causal reasoning. At the LCD lab, I am currently working on a project on contrast inference (exploring pragmatic inferences about unmentioned categories and attributes) and preparing a study examining structural explanations of speech injustice.


Audun Dahl, Ph.D.

I'm an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Most of my research investigates early moral development. I'm especially interested in how young children begin to help others and come to see it as wrong to harm others. Combining naturalistic and experimental methods, we are studying how these developments take place through social interactions in everyday life.


Yang Xu, Ph.D.

My research concerns the intersection of semantics, cognition and computation. I am particularly interested in how word meanings vary over time and across different languages, and a computational account of these phenomena that explains the underlying cognitive principles.


Alex Carstensen, Ph.D.

I’m a postdoctoral researcher in the Meaning, Culture, and Cognition Lab at Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. I completed my PhD in psychology at UC Berkeley, studying universals and variation in spatial language and cognition. My current research focuses on the nature of category systems across languages: how these semantic structures vary, evolve, and influence thought. I’m collaborating with the LCD lab to study the role of language in children’s changing conceptualizations of space.


Katharine Tillman

I'm a graduate student from the Language and Development Lab at UC San Diego. I'm interested in how children acquire an adult-like concept of time, and roles that language and spatial cognition play in this process. I also study how kids learn abstract words in general, including time words, number words, and color words. Prior to starting my graduate work at UCSD, I received my BA in Psychology from NYU, where I conducted research on visual perception. Outside the lab, I enjoy creative writing, meditation, and trying to keep up with my 2-year-old daughter.


Andrew Bartnof

I studied English and Philosophy at Pitzer College, lived in Indonesia for a year as a Fulbright Scholar, and spent some time working in the maple forests in Québec. I then worked as a translator, and as a dubbing coordinator at a post-production facility. Now I am a doctoral student at Northwestern University. I love studying the processes that drive language acquisition!


Kelsey Moty

I graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Psychology and Linguistics and a minor in Polish Language and Literature, and am currently a graduate student at New York University. My research interests revolve around the following questions: 1) How does the language we speak influence how we think about and perceive the world? 2) How do children and adults learn language? and 3) How do children and adults form and revise categories? Currently, I am exploring how children use categories across different domains to make inferences, how they integrate information from multiple sources to form coherent categories, and how they make use of pragmatic information to learn language.


Rachel Jansen

I am a Ph.D. student in the Computational Cognitive Science Lab, advised by Tom Griffiths and Anna Rafferty. I am passionate about employing methods from machine learning and probabilistic modeling to the study of mathematics cognition and education. I am specifically interested in understanding more about how people learn math so that I may work towards improving both teaching practices and online educational tools. One branch of my research is centered around math learning in adults using an online algebra tutor developed by me and my advisors. I am using this tool to explore ways in which we can influence motivation and alter students' perceptions of mathematics, to ultimately remove emotional and psychological barriers so that more people may appreciate and excel at the subject. I am fortunate to be funded by the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Fellowship and NSF GRFP.

Research Assistants

Alagia Cirolia

I’m a sophomore Cognitive Science major with an emphasis in Linguistics. I am particularly interested in how bilingualism (and language environments in general) relate to Theory of Mind. I find the study of language wonderfully interdisciplinary, and enjoy tackling the many philosophical questions this field poses: What counts as a language? What are the limits on how clearly language can express our mental experience? What cues lead us to pick up on what is left unsaid? How can research in learning benefit other academic disciplines and real-world industries? I'm also interested in the neurological basis of language and creating language processing models. I love talking to kids, and children are always full of insights!


Nicole Hsu

I am a third year studying Cognitive Science and Disability Studies. I’m interested in verbal and nonverbal communication, and more generally how children process and make use of new information. I hope to pursue a career in education, and want to apply my research experience to explore bilingual classrooms, school-based interventions, and curriculum development and delivery. Outside of school, I enjoy eating ice cream, playing violin, traveling, and learning French.

Lara Yedikian

Hi! I’m a second year undergraduate student at U.C. Berkeley. Currently, I am an intended Psychology major with a strong interest in Developmental Psychology. I'm incredibly passionate about the cognition of children and how they perceive the world around them. I especially find interest in how children from multilingual and multi-cultural families learn in their perspective environments. In my free time I enjoy catching up on TV shows, doodling, and going on food adventures with friends!

Claudia Valdivia

I'm a third year Linguistics and Spanish double major with a minor in French. I'm greatly interested in bilingual language acquisition and bilingual speech disorders. I hope to pursue a career in speech-language pathology to service the growing amount of Spanish-English bilinguals in California and help close the cultural gap between therapists and their clients. I am especially passionate about raising awareness among speech-language pathologists of typical bilingual development that so often gets diagnosed as a language disorder or delay. In my free time, I enjoy yoga, cooking and exploring San Francisco.


Brittany Tsai

Hiya! I am a third year Integrative Biology major at UC Berkeley. I am interested in exploring social and developmental psychology. My dream job starting at the age of four is being a pediatrician, and I enjoy spending my free time tutoring and mentoring K-5th graders at Cleveland and Lincoln elementary schools. I am very delighted to be on the team, studying the language and cognitive development of young children—and more specifically, working with Katharine on how young children learn abstract words and acquire the concept of time. When I am not studying or volunteering, I love trying new restaurants, watching movies, making arts and crafts, and playing board games.


Ozge Ugurlu

I have got my B.A in foreign language education/linguistics and sociology at METU in Turkey. During my last two years, I got involved in cognitive science. Previously, I worked on different aspects of language intermingled with memory, body, sociolinguistics, and music perception. Currently, I am interested in embodied linguistics and focusing on exploring the relationship between mind and language, how we create meaning and use knowledge by working on flexibility & exploration, time perception and metaphor studies in the LCD lab. I lived in different countries for a while and am enamored by how different languages we speak change the way we think, so I am hoping to apply our findings into cross-cultural projects. If I am not in the lab, you can find me doing tango, contact improvisation, acro-yoga or practicing mindfulness.


Reni Forer

Hi! I'm a first year undergraduate student at U.C. Berkeley. I'm an intended Cognitive Science major with a minor in Hebrew but I am also following the pre-med track. I am absolutely fascinated by the way in which a person's native language can shape how they see the world and whether bilingualism has an effect on cognition as well. I am super excited to get to work with the lab and gain a deeper understanding about how language skills are developed from childhood. Outside of school I enjoy rowing, cooking and creating new recipes, reading, visiting Farmers' Markets, and journaling.


Leslie Wang

Hey there, I’m currently a junior majoring in Cognitive Science and minoring in Linguistics. My interest in language stems from my bilingual background and eventually found its way into my studies. Cognitive Science presents a wide variety of subfields, and I’m working to gain a deeper understanding of each facet’s applications – particularly in Linguistics. When I’m not in the lab or preparing for exams, I enjoy reading, playing badminton, drawing, and watching movies with my friends.

LCD Lab Alumni