Having and making choices is important for our developing social and moral cognition, as well as our sense of agency, self-esteem and well-being. The lab investigates questions such as: How do we parse our world into choices (vs. obligations)? Why is choice important and how do we learn from it? We are also particularly interested in how early experiences, culture, and developmental maturity contribute to our understanding of choice.
Cognitive Mechanisms of Prosocial Behavior
A wealth of recent research has found that children are prosocial quite early on. Yet, we know relatively less about the cognitive mechanisms underlying children’s abilities to be prosocial. The lab investigates how children’s cognitive competencies (e.g., numerical cognition, counterfactual reasoning, theory of mind, causal reasoning) enable social behavior (e.g., sharing, moral evaluation). We explore how and when children’s sense of number underpins their abilities to be generous towards others.
Structure of Early Moral Cognition
One of the most important cognitive achievements is the acquisition of a moral sense. Our lab asks (1) How do children solve the complex cognitive task of identifying who and what is worthy of their moral regard?; (2) How do children recognize when they themselveshave the responsibility to help others?; and (3) What do our early schemas of fairness and generosity look like? How do our early ideas serve as building blocks for higher-order concepts of fairness, merit, equity, and justice?
Developing Future-Oriented Thinking
The ability to think about abstract concepts such as “the future” develops rapidly during the preschool age. These abilities are important since they relate to school readiness, goal attainment, and career success. What implications does this ability have on children’s developing social cognition? How might we be able to train children to make better better decisions on behalf of their future selves? The lab studies the underlying cognitive mechanisms that enable young children’s prospective abilities.
Developing Early Number Concepts Through Sharing
Early math exposure and understanding is incredibly important for not only for current school success, but also for future math learning. This poses a problem because number concepts are difficult to grasp for young children, and there are gender and socio-economic biases in how frequently children are exposed to these concepts at home. Our lab investigates how we can teach numbers through teaching children the structurally similar concept of sharing. We also focus on how sharing contexts might decrease inequity with respect to number concept exposure.