Our developmental studies involve conducting one-on-one interviews with children, reading them short stories, 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. In this study, we present children with new information in the course of a fictional story. We then ask children some questions about the new information to see what they learned. Different children hear slightly different stories so that we can determine what kinds of stories teach best. Finding out how children learn information presented in stories can help us to create better educational media and more effective curricula for young children.

This project asks:

  • How do children think about the stories they hear?
  • What role does imagination play child development?
  • Does it matter whether children’s stories are realistic or fantastical?
  • Can children learn to transfer lessons learned from storybooks to real life?
  • How do children distinguish between real and fantasy? What factors influence this ability?


Scientific Thinking

This series of studies aim to explore children’s abilities to think scientifically. In one study, we present children with a game where a set of blocks makes a machine light up and play music. Children are asked to figure out which combination of blocks made it go. In some games, we provide the child with counter-evidence that directly opposes their guess. This allows us to see whether children are capable of being flexible about their beliefs when they need to be.

This project asks:

  • How do children’s scientific thinking abilities develop over time?
  • What do children think about science?
  • How does new evidence affect children’s abilities to make guesses about the way the world works?
  • Do children’s abilities to revise their beliefs look similar to adults’ abilities?


Children’s Educational Storybooks

Early childhood educators stress the importance of reading to children as a major component of language acquisition and development. We are examining children’s educational stories to see what kind of information they might be learning from these books.

This project asks:

  • Which science concepts are being taught to children in storybooks? Are some topics more prevalent than others?
  • What kinds of misinformation or misconceptions are presented in children’s educational books?
  • What are these books’ narrative style? Is this style related to the presentation of the educational information in the books?