Lab Director

Patricia Ganea, Ph.D.

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.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Angela Nyhout, Ph.D.

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.

Myrto Grigoroglou, Ph.D.

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.

Graduate Students

Begüm Özdemir
7th 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.

Josanne Buchanan
1st year MA student in DPE program

Josanne received her Honours BSc in Psychology after completing a Psychology Specialist degree at the University of Toronto, St. George campus. Driven by a passion for understanding childhood cognition, Josanne is interested in exploring the development of social cognition in early childhood, and the potential for symbolic media to facilitate the process of social learning throughout development. How can fictional worlds promote social-emotional learning and cross-cultural understanding? Can storytelling help children to become more adept at navigating their social and cognitive environments? 

Josanne has studied the impact of parental praise on preschoolers’ persistence behaviours and has spent two years examining the impact of symbolic media forms on children’s understanding of self and world. She elaborates on these interests at the Language and Learning Lab. 

Vaunam Venkadasalam
6th 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

Emily Veall
2nd year Master student DPE program

Emily received her Honours BA in Psychology at Ryerson University, where she began studying early childhood cognition, and completed her thesis on the development of self-awareness. She is interested in discovering more about how children form their identities, use their imagination in everyday life, and learn through their exploratory experiences. Emily loves spending time outdoors on her bike, and working on creative writing projects. 

Research Assistants

Jasmine Shirvani

Jasmine is a third year student at the University of Toronto double majoring in psychology and nutrition. She is interested in exploring normal psychological development as it relates to language and reasoning, however, she hopes to extend her research to abnormal psychology looking at mental health and psychotherapeutic interventions. Outside of the lab, Jasmine loves spending time with her dogs and family and binge watching shows.

Kelly Kim

Kelly is a second year student at the University of Toronto majoring in psychology and cognitive science with a particular interest in developmental psychology and linguistics. She really enjoys working with children of all ages and learning more about how children use language to understand their world and others. In her free time she is a dedicated plant mom to 40+ houseplants and a film photographer!

Ljudmila Milicevic

Ljudmila Milicevic is a second-year student studying life sciences at the University of Toronto. Through volunteering and tutoring, she likes to help educate students in the sciences and French. Ljudmila is particularly interested in how children learn and apply scientific concepts. During her free time, she likes to train for triathlons and travel.

Lydia Jia

Lydia is a fourth year student studying Psychology and the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. She is also a volunteer ESL tutor of an immigrant mother. Lydia is interested in exploring how children develop their language and communication, as well as the capability of imagination. In her spare time, Lydia loves jogging and watching movies.

Lynn Nguyen

Lynn Nguyen is a recent graduate at the University of Toronto, where she achieved a B.Sc Honours in Neuroscience and Psychology. She enjoys working with children in research and clinical settings. At the lab, her work is focused on researching methods to teach children scientific concepts. During her free time, she enjoys reading and volunteering for mental health causes.

Misha Khan

Misha Khan is a third year doing a major in Psychology and minors in Mathematics and Education & Society at the University of Toronto. She enjoys working with children of all ages and is particularly interested in their development. In her spare time, she like travelling and watching movies. 

Patrycia Jarosz

Patrycia is a fourth year student in the Specialized Honours Psychology program at York University. For her honours thesis, she evaluated a specialized autism program developed by the YCDSB and is now interested in investigating the factors which influence children’s developmental learning. During her free time, she loves to volunteer at a daycare. 

Salima Hackeek

Salima recently graduated from the University of Toronto where she studied Neuroscience, Nutritional Science and Psychology. She is particularly interested in language acquisition and how children learn.
Salima has loved broadening her research experience with the Language and Learning Lab and is now working on recruitment and administrative responsibilities for the lab. In her spare time, she likes to binge-watch Netflix, spend time with her family and explore the city with her friends.

Yuen Lin

Yuen is a third-year Psychology Specialist student at the University of Toronto. She is interested in developmental psychology and childhood psychopathology. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and listening to music.