Our developmental studies involve conducting one-on-one interviews with children, reading them short stories and asking them questions, or playing brief games with them.

Imaginative Cognition
One major focus of our research is the development of imaginative cognition, which includes fictional stories, pretend games, and counterfactual and hypothetical scenarios. A current project aims to discover how children learn from stories. We present children with new information. We then ask children some questions about information in the story to see what they learned. In this way, we can explore which kind of story teaches best. Finding out how children interpret information presented in stories will ultimately lead to understanding how to create better educational media and more effective curricula for young children.

This project is asking questions such as:
✿ When children listen to stories, what principles govern their interactions with these imaginary worlds?
✿ What role does children’s imaginative cognition play in their development?
✿ Does it matter whether the story is realistic or fantastical?
✿ Can children learn to transfer lessons learned from storybooks to real life instances?

The Nature of Science
This series of studies aim to explore children’s understanding of science as a way of thinking and discovering how the world works. In turn, learning what children think science is can help us identify why many children have difficulty with science in school. We ask children at a variety of ages to define the word “science” and to solve different types of scientific reasoning puzzles. With this line of research, we can help to create better science curricula for preschool and elementary classrooms.

This project is asking questions such as:
✿ Can children recognize correct scientific methods?
✿ How do children’s scientific thinking abilities develop over time?
✿ How does children’s knowledge about science relate to their scientific thinking skills?

Understanding Scientific Explanations
Previous research has found that people have difficulty understanding various aspects of science. For example, previous work has found that people believe that explanations of psychological phenomena are more satisfying when these explanations contain neuroscience terms, even when these terms are irrelevant to the logic of the explanation. A series of follow-up studies ask whether this reasoning bias is specific to neuroscience, or whether it also happens for biology, chemistry, and other special sciences. We explore the nature of these reasoning errors in an effort to increase public understanding and acceptance of science.

This project is asking questions such as:
✿ Is the reasoning bias specific to neuroscience or does it also happen for biology, chemistry, and other special sciences?
✿ Can people be trained to overcome this reasoning bias?


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