Current Members

Lab Director

Patricia Ganea, Ph.D.

My primary research area is early cognitive development. I investigate the processes involved in young children’s learning about the world through symbolic means, such as language, pictures, videos, and replica objects. I am especially interested in children’s use of language to think and communicate about what is perceptually not present. Developing the ability to communicate about absent objects and events is a major cognitive achievement, one that enables children to learn about the world indirectly. My research is focusing on the social, linguistic and representational factors that influence children’s learning about the world. I am also interested in how children develop and understanding of the pragmatics of language and of social cognition.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Gabrielle Strouse, Ph.D.

Gabrielle received her Ph.D. and M. S. from Vanderbilt University in Psychology, and her B. A. in Psychology from Northwestern University.  Gabrielle’s research is focused on exploring supportive situations for young children’s learning and transfer of information from media to the real world, including parent-child conversations during co-viewing.


Graduate Students

Ruth Lee

3rd year PhD student in DPE program

Ruth is interested in how multiple dimensions of the ability to construct and update mental models of stories as they unfold, and the ability to integrate these components, emerge and develop in and beyond childhood. She is particularly interested in prediction, and has used short stories in video format to investigate the effect of picture-text encoding conditions on children’s ability to use an inference to update a mental representation. She is developing an interest in how children and adults predict upcoming linguistic input in a narrative context, and has also worked with autistic adolescents to investigate their strategies during narrative comprehension. Ruth hopes to use the situation model as a theoretical framework to investigate new ways of tapping children’s narrative competence.

Begüm Özdemir

2nd year PhD student in DPE program

Begum received her BA in Philosophy from Middle East Technical University and MA in Psychology from Bogazici University, Turkey. Her primary research interest covers how early development of cognitive processes and their interrelations enable children to acquire knowledge about the world around them. She is particularly interested in the dynamic relations between mental representation and emerging language ability.

Interesting fact: As a child, she believed she and her elder brother emerged simultaneously in mother’s womb but she waited 7 years inside for her elder brother to grow up before being born.

Kadria Simons Ghafari

3rd year PhD student in DPE program

Kadria received her B.A. in Hispanic and Italian Studies from the University of Victoria. After working overseas in Israel and South America, she completed her M.A. in Child Study and Education at the University of Toronto. At the Language and Learning Lab, her research is focused on children’s ability to distinguish fact from fiction in picture books and their learning and transfer of information from pictures to reality.

Research Assistant

Nicole Larsen

2nd year MA Student in CSE Program

Nicole received her Honours B.A. in Political Science and Social Justice and Peace Studies from the University of Western Ontario. She is particularly interested in how children learn from picture books and the impact that books can have on their development and their social relations.

Interesting Fact: Nicole has a 5-year-old lizard named after her favourite Ninja Turtle, Donatello.