Early Cognitive Development Lab


Our research is broadly focused on cognitive development: how infants' and children's thinking develops. Much of our research focuses on early social cognition. How do infants understand the meaning of people’s actions? How do children learn from others? We have also focused on how infants and children learn about animals and other living things. Do they think about all animals in the same way? Do infants always focus their attention most strongly on animals?

Below you will find descriptions of some of our ongoing research projects.

Infant Action Perception

What do infants pay attention to when they view other people performing actions? We have found as infants get older they pay greater attention to people's hands, which may help infants anticipate upcoming actions. For instance, we have found that 10-month-olds understand that an upside-down bowl cannot be lifted with a precision, or pincher grasp. Infants also may gain this knowledge from their own motor experience using precision grasps. In ongoing studies, we are examining the underlyng causes of this developmental shift in infants’ attention to action.

Acton Imitation and Memory

Young children frequently learn new skills and behaviours by observing the actions of others. How do they keep all of this information organized in their mind? In ongoing studies, we are examining how children’s prior knowledge of activities influences their memory, and how specific features of the event may help or hinder memory.

Conceptualizing Animals

We have recently begun investigating how young children think about various animals. Some theorists would argue that young children's animal category treats all animals the same - e.g., what's true of one animal is probably true of other animals. In our research, we have found that this is not the case, and that children may be operating with a hierarchy of animals. In ongoing studies, we are probing the nature of this category in preschool children, and also how these categories emerge in infancy.