Intuitive theories of the social world

A primary goal of my research is to investigate children’s abstract understanding of social categories, and to examine how this understanding allows them to predict and explain people’s behavior. As early as the preschool years, children develop an intuitive theory--an abstract, domain-specific, causal-explanatory framework--by which they see social category members as holding moral obligations toward one another. My current research asks about the structure of this theory, as well as about its consequences for children's inferences and expectations about others.

Cultural input and conceptual development

I am also interested in the features of cultural input that contribute to children's developing theories of the social world. Parents communicate a great deal of information to their children through speech, in the form of actual spoken content and subtle linguistic cues. I explore the ways in which parents communicate their beliefs about social categories to children, as well as the ways in which children learn from and respond to this communication.

The early beginnings of social categorization

More recently, I have begun to explore the expectations and preferences that infants hold about social categories within the first two years of life. I am interested in whether infants hold intuitive beliefs about social categories and moral obligation, as well as how infants' beliefs about social categories guide their own behaviors in intergroup contexts.