My primary research area is early cognitive development. My research is focused on the social, linguistic and representational factors that influence children’s learning. I am especially interested in children’s ability to use language to communicate about things that are not perceptually present and their ability to engage in hypothetical thinking. I am also interested in how children develop an understanding of the pragmatics of language and of social cognition.
My research explores how children and adults use language in communication. I am particularly interested in how the communicative system is formed in development and how it interacts with the semantic system as well as other, non-linguistic aspects of cognition (e.g., social or spatial cognition). In one line of research, I study children’s ability to tailor their speech to the knowledge and perspective of other people. In a second line of work, I look at how children use language to talk about space and motion cross-linguistically and how conversational principles, as well as non-linguistic conceptual representations affect language acquisition.
My research explores how children think about and learn from alternatives to reality. In two lines of research, I study children’s developing ability to disengage from the here-and-now to (1) understand and imagine fictional worlds in stories, and (2) to reason about episodes that didn’t happen, but could have happened. Recently, I have been studying how children’s ability to entertain alternate possibilities supports their learning of science concepts and their scientific reasoning skills. I am also interested in the development of pragmatic language and communication, and am currently investigating how children understand the communicative intentions underlying storytelling.
Alana received her BSc. in Psychology at the University of Ottawa and has recently graduated from the M.A. Child Study and Education program. Broadly, her research interests are in early science learning.
6th year PhD student in DPE program
Ruth is interested in how children process language while it is still unfolding, and what this can tell us about children’s mental representations of the events they hear about. Her thesis work uses real-time eye movement measures to ask how children interpret events in fiction that contradict their knowledge of the real world. She is also interested in the strategies used by older children on the autistic spectrum to make sense of fiction.
6th 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 research interest covers how early development of cognitive and symbolic processes enable children to acquire knowledge about and interact with the world around them. She has studied young children’s ability to update their knowledge about absent objects based on verbal testimony. She also has some work on children’s understanding of conventionality. She is currently working on her thesis exploring children’s reasoning in situations where they are required to revise their existing beliefs in light of new evidence.
2nd year MA student in the SCCP program
Ariana received her BSc in Psychology and Biology from McMaster University. Her research interests lie broadly within the domain of cognitive development, and her previous research has focused on the cognitive deficits of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. At the Language and Learning Lab, she is currently focusing on early social-pragmatic development, and young children’s ability to make inferences about people and objects that are not perceptually present. Ariana has the ultimate goal of practicing as a psychologist for children and adolescents.
4th year PhD student in DPE Program
Vaunam received her Honours BSc in Biology and Psychology from York University and her MA in Development Psychology and Education from the University of Toronto. Vaunam is primarily interested in young children’s scientific understanding. Her research explores pedagogical strategies that promote science learning at home and in other educational settings.
Research Practicum Students
Xiaoxu is currently an MEd student in Developmental Psychology and Education. She completed her M.A. in Educational Policy at Arizona State University. Previously, she worked as an intern science teacher in elementary schools in China. She likes to work with young children and has some experience teaching them using different methods. She hopes to learn more about the development of children’s science learning ability and scientific reasoning skills.
Research Opportunity Placement Students
Elizabeth is a second-year undergraduate student at U of T, double-majoring in Immunology and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. She works as a tutor and wants to find more ways to help students build scientific literacy. She is particularly interested in how children learn and apply scientific concepts. Elizabeth also likes birdwatching, BBC Nature and all kinds of food.
Marnie is a second-year student, completing a Pharmacology specialist, Global Health major, and Psychology minor. She has a passion for children’s education and development, which she has pursued through volunteering as a tutor, helping young children overcome their literacy hurdles, and working as a camp counsellor. Marnie is particularly interested in how children learn science from picture books and videos. In her free time, she loves to travel, read, and hike.
Kritleen is a third year student at University of Toronto doing a double major in Neuroscience and Immunology. I am very fascinated by the brain and I am very excited to be helping with psychology studies at the Language and Learning Lab, that will tell us more about the workings of the brain in children. I work with a lot of children in my neighbourhood as a tutor and a volunteer at the community arts council and I love it. In my free time I love painting, reading fictional novels, watching TV and trying new kinds of foods at various restaurants in Toronto with my friends. I am very interested in learning the therapeutic side of art and its effects on the brain and injury.
Aryana is a third year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying in the Life Science Program. She enjoys volunteering with the City of Toronto to help at risk youth. She is currently interested in learning how children are able to use technology to develop their cognitive and language skill.
Ariel is a second year student pursuing a double major in Physiology and Human Biology. She currently teaches children piano at the Ryerson Community School, as a part of SolMusic. She also volunteered at the Telus World of Science in which she has learnt how to explain scientific concepts to children. Ariel is interested in exploring how children receive and interpret foreign scientific concepts. Outside of her academics, Ariel enjoys eating and playing music!
Rachel graduated from U of T with an Honours Bachelor of Science this past summer, double majoring in molecular biology and immunology and mental health studies. She loves working with children and is very interested in the social aspect of language development.
Salima is a fourth year undergraduate student studying Neuroscience, Nutritional Science and Psychology at the University of Toronto. She is particularly interested in language acquisition and how children learn. She has loved her time at the Language and Learning Lab so far and is looking forward to learning more about child development. In her spare time, she likes to binge-watch Netflix, spend time with her family and explore the city with her friends.
Jinze is a third-year student specializing in Psychology and majoring in Neuroscience at the University of Toronto. In the past, she has volunteered with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder and the experience inspired her to learn more about cognitive, social and mental disorders in children. She is currently part of a peer-support non-profit program and is also volunteering in the stem cell club. In her leisure time, she loves watching movies and traveling.
Lynn is a fourth year undergraduate student, pursuing a double major in Psychology and Neuroscience. She has a passion for working with children, which she has done through out the course of her life, including working with children affected by HIV/AIDs in Vietnam for 4 years. She is particularly interested in researching the most effective ways to teach children scientific concepts.
Stephanie is a third year Neuroscience and Psychology student at the University of Toronto. Stephanie enjoys working with children and is especially interested in how the brain develops and changes throughout a person’s lifetime. She is also interested in how learning occurs in children, how children gain new cognitive abilities, and how mental illness develops in young individuals. Her hobbies include taking long walks, spending time with friends, going to the gym, and baking sweets.
Hilary is a fourth year neuroscience student at University of Toronto. She has always been fascinated by psychology and the brain, and has enjoyed working with children for many years. By combining these areas of interest, Hilary is interested in studying how children acquire and apply language skills. Outside of school, she loves travelling.
Pavethra graduated with her BSc in Biochemistry and Health Studies from the University of Toronto. She has always been interested in how children perceive the world around them and wants to pursue a career in children’s education