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.

Visiting Student

Antonia Langenhoff

I am a graduate student from the University of Goettingen in Germany. I am excited to be in the LCD lab as a Visiting Student Researcher until April 2018. I am interested in moral decision making. During my time in the LCD lab, I will be working on a project in which we assess the development of judgments about moral and conventional norms in children.

Research Assistants

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.


Nikhila Udupar

Hi! I’m a second year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley majoring in Psychology and minoring in Gender & Women’s Studies. This is my second semester working in the LCD lab and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about how children perceive the world around them! In the future, I hope to become a clinical psychologist and potentially continue to work with kids in a different setting. Outside of lab and school, I love to read, journal, (attempt to) cook, and volunteer.


Reni Forer

Hi! I'm a third year undergraduate student at U.C. Berkeley. I'm a Cognitive Science and Molecular and Cellular Biology double major on 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. I love working with the lab and gaining a deeper understanding about how language skills develop from childhood. Outside of school I enjoy cooking and creating new recipes, reading, visiting Farmers' Markets, and journaling.


Sam Ku

Hello! I am a sophomore at Cal studying psychology with emphases in psycholinguistics and clinical science. I am fascinated by what language reveals about conceptual structures and abstract representations, especially in regards to how that is or isn't affected by bilingualism. I also absolutely love reading about translation, both from a creative interpretation perspective and also a statistical machine translation standpoint (a.k.a. Google Translate!). Outside of my labs or classes, you can catch me painting, advocating for mental health awareness in QTPOC communities, or baking banana bread!


Annelise Meyer

Hi! My name is Annelise and I am a third-year Linguistics and Cognitive Science Double Major. I am fascinated by how despite extremely different inputs of information, we as humans are still able to communicate relatively coherently and similarly. I am excited to be a part of the LCD lab and learn more about the timescale under which language develops in children, and why it does so. In my free time, I love to ski, snowboard, hike, swim, read, and coffee shop hop in SF.


Stefania Pombo

Hello! I’m a fourth year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley majoring in Cognitive Science with an emphasis in linguistics. This is my second semester in the LCD lab, where I have enjoyed learning the role lexical flexibility plays in language development. I am fascinated by language acquisition and hope to one day pursue a career in speech-language pathology. In my free time, I enjoy playing my cello, biking around the Bay Area, and watching The Office.


Serena Meghani

I am a third-year Cognitive Science major, with a minor in Applied Linguistics and Education. I am interested in language and cognitive development. My interests in language development stem from its interdisciplinary nature, and the insight it can give us into child development. In my free time, I enjoy doodling, exploring new places with my friends, and reading.


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.


Carmela Martinez

Hello, my name is Carmela and I am currently a 3 rd year studying Spanish and German Comparative Literature and Education. Aside from working at the LCD Lab I am also a mentor for the BUILD (Berkeley United in Literacy Development) program, which focuses on assisting children with their reading skills. Working for BUILD at a Spanish-English dual immersion school I developed a strong interest in language education and literacy in children. Working for the LCD lab I have learned a lot more about how children process language. I hope to take what I learn in the field of developmental cognitive science and apply it to the field of literacy education. In my free time I enjoy crafty art projects, watching movies, journaling and of course, reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction!


Abby Tozer

My name is Abby and I'm a sophomore Neurobiology major and music minor. This is my second semester in the Cognitive linguistics lab and I am continuing my research under my mentor Ruthe with the study of relative adjectives. The cognitive lab has been a really great learning experience and taught me how to conduct research in a social setting. I never thought I would be able to go up to families in museums and convince them to participate in studies for research, but now I can do it no problem. I hope to pursue a career in medicine or medical research of the brain.

LCD Lab Alumni