Marianella Casasola


Marianella Casasola

Associate Professor
B51, Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
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Curriculum Vitae
Biographical Statement:

Marianella Casasola earned her undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Spanish Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.  Her expertise is in infant cognitive development and early word learning with a particular interest in the interaction between thought and language during the first few years of development. Along with her students, she examines various aspects of infant cognitive and linguistic development, but is especially interested in the emergence of spatial concepts, the early acquisition of spatial language, and the interplay between spatial cognition and spatial language in infants and young children. Her more recent work is examining infants' and young children's ability to learn a second language. 

Teaching and Advising Statement:

In my courses and research lab , I strive to help students develop their critical thinking, a skill which I hope will be useful regardless of their career path. In my courses, I also focus on developing students' writing so that they gain confidence and proficiency in clearly communicating their ideas. In the lab, I strive to instill a sense of excitement for the process of discovery and encourage students to use their creativity in tackling a research question. 

Current Professional Activities:

Board member, Cognitive Development Society

Editorial Board, Journal of Cognitiion and Development

Member, Society for Research in Child Development, International Society on Infant Studies, Cognitive Development Society

Ad-hoc reviewer, Psychological Science, Cognition, Child Development, Developmental ScienceJournal of Child Language, Journal of Cognition and Development, Spatial Cognition and Computation, Cognitive Science, Language Learning and Development, Infancy, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Trends in Cognitive Science, British Journal of Developmental Psychology, Developmental Neuropsychology, Perspectives on Psychological Science

Current Research Activities:

My research program focuses on various aspects of infant cognitive development and early word learning. I am particularly interested in the interaction between cognition and language during the first few years of development. Much of my work has focused on early spatial cognition as well as the early acquisition of spatial language.

One goal of my research is to outline the early emergence of infants' spatial skills. Current research in my lab is striving to outline new methodological approaches that can be used to trace the trajectory of spatial skills from infancy into early childhood. We also are exploring how acquiring spatial language may relate to infants' spatial skills and whether there is a causal link between particular experiences, such as exposure to spatial language or engaging in particular play activities, that may promote the early development of spatial skills. Our goal is to not only understand how early spatial skills develop, but also how best to promote their development. 

In other work, my students and I have begun to explore how infants and toddlers learn labels in a foreign language, examining how much exposure to an unfamiliar language (such as Spanish) is necessary for infants to begin to demonstrate comprehension of words in the new language. We have also explored this question with school-aged children who are learning a new language (Spanish) during a weekly enrichment program. 

Current Public Engagement Activities:

 I am a Faculty Fellow with Brofenbrenner Center and am working with Cornell Cooperative Extension to explores way to expand our study of early spatial skills to more diverse samples of young children thoughout NY state. Thanks to the assistance of the Brofenbrenner Center, we have made critical new connections to Head Start Centers in Tompkins County and NYC and have expanded our experimental studies to these centers. The work with the Head Start centers are especially important in addresing the question of whether any benefits documented in a spatial language training study replicate wtih a sample of low-income children. In addition, we seek to document whether any benefits remain evident in our sample of low-income children. 


B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 1992; Psychology and Spanish Literature

Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, 2000; Developmental Psychology

Courses Taught:


HD 2830: Research Methods in Human Development 

HD 3460: Serious Fun: The Role of Play throughout Development

HD 4380:  Language and Thought Thoughtout the Lifespan

HD4340: Seminar on Cognitive Development

HD 6310: Graduate seminar in Cognitive Development

Related Websites:

Cornell Infant Study Laboratory

Administrative Responsibilities:


Member, Undergraduate Education Committee, Fall 2015 - present

Selected Publications:

Casasola, M., & Ahn, Y. A. (2017). What develops in infants’ spatial categorization? Korean infants’ categorization of containment and tight-fit relations.  Child Development.

Casasola, M., Bhagwat, J., Doan, S. & Love, H. (2017). Getting some space: Infants’ and caregivers’ containment and support constructions during play.  Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 159, 110-128.

Park, Y., & Casasola, M. (2017). The impact of object type on spatial analogies in Korean Preschoolers. Cognitive Psychology, 94, 53-66.

Park, Y., & Casasola, M. (2015). Plain or Decorated? Object Visual Features Matter in Infant Spatial Categorization. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Vredenburgh, C., Kushnir, T., & Casasola, M. (2015). Pedagogical cues encourage toddlers’ transmission of recently demonstrated functions to unfamiliar adults. Developmental Science, 18, 645-654. doi:10.1111/desc.12233 

Chen, J., Meng, X.Z., Zhu, L.Q., Casasola, M. & Tardif, T. (2015). English- and Mandarin-learning infants’ discrimination of actions and objects in dynamic events. Developmental Psychology. http://dx/

Ferguson, K. T., & Casasola, M. (2015). Are you an animal, too? African and US infants’ categorization of animals. Infancy, 20, 189-207. doi.10.1111/infa.12069

Bhagwat, J. B., & Casasola, M. (2014). Infant sensitivity to speaker and language in learning a second label. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 118, 41-56. doi 10.1016/j.jecp.2013.09.009

Casasola, M., & Park, Y. (2013). Developmental changes in infant spatial categorization: When more is better and less is enough. Child Development, 84, 1004-1019. doi 10.1111/cdev.12010

Casasola, M., Bhagwat, J., & Burke, A. S. (2009). Learning to form a spaital category of tight-fit relations: How experience with a label can give a boost. Developmental Psychology, 45, 711-723.

Casasola, M. (2008). The development of infants’ spatial categories. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 21-25.

Casasola, M. (2005). When less is more: How infants learn to form an abstract categorical representation of support. Child Development, 76, 279-290.

Casasola, M., Cohen, L.B., & Chiarello, E. (2003). Six-month-old infants’ categorization of containment spatial relations. Child Development, 74, 679-693.

Selected Keywords:
infant cognition and early word learning spatial cognition and the acquisition of spatial language second language learning in infants and young children

The information on this bio page is taken from the CHE Annual Report.