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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 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?
  •  How do children distinguish between real and fantasy? What factors influence this ability?

Scientific Thinking

This series of studies aim to explore children’s ability to think scientifically. We present the child with a game where a set of objects cause a machine to activate. The child must identify which combination ofo bjects is responsible for activating the machine and explain how they arrived at their conclusion. In some games, we provide the child with counter-evidence that directly opposes what the child believes to see if children are capable of belief revision and under what conditions does this occur

This project is asking questions such as:

  • At what age are children able to correctly identify an agent in a causal system?
  • What do children explicitly state about their reasoning process?
  • How do children’s scientific thinking abilities develop over time?
  • How does confirmatory and contradictory evidence affect hypothesis formation and revision? Is this similar to what this process looks like in adults?

Science Content in Children’s Books

Early childhood leaders stress the importance of reading to children as a major component of language acquisition and development. We selected narrative children’s books that teach some aspect of science to perform a content analysis of science-based children’s books.

This project is asking questions such as:

  • What science concepts are being taught to children? Are some topics more prevalent than others?
  • What kinds of misinformation or misconceptions are presented in these books?
  • What is the narrative style and how is that related to the presentation of the science information within the contents?