Projects In Our Lab

What information do infants pay attention to?

There are so many different ways we can quantify the world around us. For example, when given a plate of cookies, we can keep track of the number of cookies on the plate, the total surface area or volume of food in front of us, or how long the cookies have been sitting on the plate. In the Infant and Child Cognition Lab, we are interested in determining which quantitative information is important to babies, if they are more likely to pay attention to one type of quantity over another, and if there are circumstances that make an infant more likely to attend to number over other quantities.

How do children feel about math and space?

Work from our lab and others reveals that as early as 1st or 2nd grade, girls report feeling higher anxiety when performing math than boys and both boys and girls start to think of math as “for boys”. This is surprising, especially since there is no evidence that boys and girls perform differently in math classes. Recent work from our lab show a similar pattern in the domain of space — girls report higher anxiety about performing spatial tasks (e.g., building with blocks, reading a map) and associate spatial tasks with boys. It is possible that these early emerging gender differences in attitudes, not ability, help explain why women are underrepresented in science and math college classes and careers. Through behavioral studies with 4-10 year olds, our lab is interested in understanding when and why these gender differences emerge, and what we can do to reduce the perpetuation and impact of these stereotypes.

How do children and adults think about rational numbers?

How do children decide that 1/2 is smaller than 3/4? Do children and adults approach this question differently if the numbers are in decimal notation: 0.5 vs. 0.75? Using behavioral tasks and eye-tracking techniques, we are investigating how children think about the magnitudes values associated with decimal and fractional notation, as well as the relationship between this magnitude understanding and Algebra or pre-Algebra understanding.

How do children’s developing sense of number relate to their prosocial abilities?

One of the most important human achievements is our ability to be generous to others. We know that many sub-components of generosity (sharing, cooperation, prosocial behavior, empathy) develop rapidly during the period of early childhood, at the same time that children are learning to count. Through a recent grant funded by the John Templeton Foundation, we are investigating the intersection of prosocial development and numerical abilities in young children. To learn more about this research, please visit Count on Sharing .