Congratulations to Wyntre Stout (graduate student in the Cognitive Development Lab) and Clare van Norden (graduate student in the Emotional Development Lab) for passing their general examinations and officially becoming Ph.D. candidates!
At the beginning of their third year, in preparation for their dissertation, graduate students in the developmental psychology program undertake an examination based on a reading list centered on developmental psychology. The reading list is compiled by faculty and is designed to provide a broad expertise in all areas relevant to development psychologists. Students are provided one week to write essays on three questions. Passing the general examination is an important milestone in a graduate student's career, and we are excited for Clare and Wyntre for reaching that milestone!
We're excited to share with you some of the most recent findings coming out of our lab group. Thank you to all of the families that have contributed to our research!
Two members of the Cognitive Development Lab presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society in Philadelphia.
Brittany Klimek, a former research assistant, presented findings from her undergraduate Honors Thesis project. Her study examined the development of children's intuitions about the mind and to what degree children believe people have control over their mental states -- that is, their thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Findings from this study suggest that both school-aged children and adults view mental states as relatively unintentional and unstable across time. However, children are more likely than adults to endorse the idea that individuals can freely change their own ongoing mental activity.
Kelsey Moty, a pre-doctoral research associate/lab member for the lab, presented work done in collaboration with Mahesh Srinivasan from University of California, Berkeley. This project explored how children and adults use information conveyed by articles (e.g., "a", "the" in English) to infer what a speaker is talking about. Against previous assumptions, this project found that even adults cannot use information conveyed by "a" and "the" alone to reason about which objects in the world a speaker is talking about.
Congratulations to Dr. Amanda Brandone who was recently promoted to Associate Professor with tenure! Dr. Brandone joined the Lehigh faculty in 2010 and currently serves as the Principle Investigator of the Cognitive Development Lab and the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Psychology.
This past weekend, Dr. Amanda Brandone, Wyntre Stout (graduate student), and Kelsey Moty (research associate/lab manager) from the Cognitive Development Lab traveled to New Orleans to present findings from one of our ongoing infant studies at the 20th Biennial Meeting of the International Congress on Infant Studies.
In the work presented, we were interested in why infants come to think about others as having goals and intentions that guide their actions (e.g., someone reaches for a ball because they intend to grab it). In particular, we examined what experiences contributes to infants' understanding of intentions. We found that evidence that suggests that experience with crawling changes how infants are thinking about others as having intentions. Crawling experience may serve to facilitate this change by highlighting an infant's own intentionality. That is, as an infant gains the ability to act on their goals via their own actions, they come to realize that others' actions are driven by underlying goals.
We also found that parents who more greatly perceived their infants as having intentions and goals were more likely to have infants who understood the intentions and goals of others. Future work is looking at how differences in attitudes about their child's own intentionality are shaping parents' interactions with their infants.
For more information about this study, check our 2016 newsletter!
Last week, Erin Karahuta (graduate student) presented her research at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Sciences in Chicago. For her presentation, Erin analyzed data from a large, national study. This analysis examined how children’s own characteristics are related to the kind of discipline used by parents. She found that preschoolers who are more likely to take their parents’ lead during a neutral play session, as compared children who respond negatively to parents, are less likely to be spanked by their parents a year later, and are more likely to have parents who use talk and reasoning as a form of discipline. Therefore, these findings emphasize the importance of not only thinking about how parenting relates to children’s outcomes, but also the importance of how children’s own behaviors relate to specific kinds of parenting.
This past weekend, Erin Karahuta (graduate student) represented the Child Development Research Group in the Grad Expo Program during Lehigh’s Alumni Weekend. At this event, Lehigh’s graduate students talked to alumni and their families about the research they conduct at university. Erin talked to families about how children come to learn about others’ mental states and demonstrated a classic task used to assess if children can understand that other people can have beliefs different than their own, as well as beliefs that are not true.
To demonstrate this task, Erin showed families a Rice Krispy’s box. Before it was opened, everyone predicted cereal would be inside the box, but instead, she revealed the box contained small toys. She then asked families what the next group of people to see the box would guess was inside. Everyone correctly guessed “cereal.” However, if Erin were to have asked a group of 3 year olds the same question, the majority of them would predict that people seeing the box for the first time would know it contained animals. This is the case because before age 4 or 5, a child has difficulty understanding that people can have beliefs about the world that are contrary to what the child knows to be true. The ability to understand others’ mental states underlies children’s ability to successfully navigate their social world.