Compared to other animals, humans are unique in their linguistic, cognitive, and social abilities. Broadly speaking, our lab explores how these abilities develop and interact in children, as a way of addressing the question of what makes humans special. How do we use language creatively to say things we have never heard before? What can language tell us about how the mind works, and does learning a language influence how we think? How does language depend on the social context in which it is used? These are the types of questions that inspire us. Below are some examples of studies that are currently being conducted in our lab.
Beyond the work we do here in Berkeley, we also occasionally have research trips to India! Our last trip was in December 2022 - January 2023, our first collecting data for the Developing Belief Network! Here are two newsletters detailing some of the work we conducted during our 2018-2019 trip as well!
Check out our virtual library to watch a collection of presentations that our lab members have given about our research!
In the current project, we investigate how stereotypes about competence develop, focusing on linguistic interactions as a candidate mechanism. We ask if children are sensitive to variations in how a speaker talks to different social groups—specifically, whether they explain facts that are obvious or interesting— and whether this variation leads children to make inferences about the social groups’ competence.
drink out of. Our study explores whether children use this relationship between word meanings to structure their understanding of a new word and object categories. Children are introduced to a novel material (some “dax”) and a new object that either shares the material name (a “dax”) or does not (a “wug”). We explore whether sharing the material name leads children to categorize the object with other objects made from the same material, and whether knowledge of the relationship between word meanings help children remember the meaning of novel words.
Our study looks at the strategies children use to think about the world around them–how they locate objects in space, relative to themselves and to landmarks and cues nearby. In the study, children play a memory game where they study the locations of toys and then recreate the scene they studied after a short delay. We’re interested in what strategies children use to remember the toys’ locations, and how these strategies change over development.