Tamar Kushnir


Tamar Kushnir

Evalyn Edwards Milman Associate Professor in Child Development
B42, Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Phone: (607) 255-8482
Email: tk397 AT cornell.edu
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Curriculum Vitae
Biographical Statement:


Tamar Kushnir is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development, and the director of the Early Childhood Cognition Laboratory.  She received her M.A. in Statistics and Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and was a Post-Doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan.      


Dr. Kushnir's research examines mechanisms of learning in young children, with a focus on social learning. Her previous work has addressed 1)how children use statistical evidence to learn new causal relations, 2)how new evidence interacts with children's prior causal beliefs, and 3)how causal learning is influenced by children's developing social knowledge and also by their own experience of action. She continues to explore the role that children's developing knowledge - in particular their social knowledge - plays in learning, a question with implications for the study of cognitive development as well as for early childhood education.

Courses Taught:

 HD1150/1160 – Infancy and Childhood 

HD2300 - Cognitive Development 

HD4340 - Current Topics in Cognitive Development 

HD4490 - Children’s Learning in Social Context.

HD4300 - Concepts and Theories in Childhood 

HD/COGST6310 - Advanced Topics in Cognitive Development

HD6380 - Evolutionary Perspectives on Developmental Social Cognition

HD/COGST6480 - Psychology of Imagination

Related Websites:


Administrative Responsibilities:

 Co-Director and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Cognitive Science @ Cornell

Selected Publications:

Representative Publications: 

Kushnir, T. & Koenig, M. (in press).  What I don't know won't hurt you: The relation between professed ignorance and later knowledge claims.

*Chernyak, N., **Trieu, B. & Kushnir, T. (2017). Preschoolers' selfish sharing is reduced by prior experience with proportional generosity. Open Mind. doi:10.1162/OPMI_a_00004

*Vredenburgh, C., *Yu, Y., & Kushnir, T. (2017). Young Children’s Flexible Social Cognition and Sensitivity to Context Facilitates Their Learning. In Sommerville J. & Decety J. (Eds.). Social Cognition: Development Across the Life Span. Taylor & Francis.

*Yu, Y & Kushnir, T. (2016). When what’s inside counts: Sequence of demonstrated actions affects preschooler’s categorization by non-obvious properties. Developmental Psychology, 52(3). 400-410. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000088

Wellman, H. M., Kushnir, T., Xu, F. & Brink, K. (2016).  Infants Use Statistical Sampling to Understand the Psychological World. Infancy. 21(5), 668-676. DOI: 10.1111/infa.12131.

Josephs, M, Kushnir, T. Gräfenhain, M., & Rakoczy, H. (2016) Children protest moral and conventional violations more when they believe actions are freely chosen. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2015.08.002

Kushnir, T., Gopnik, A., *Chernyak, N., Seiver, E., & Wellman, H. M. (2015). Developing intuitions about free will between ages 4 and 6. Cognition.138, 79-101. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2015.01.003

Vredenburgh, C. & Kushnir, T. (2015). Young Children’s Help-Seeking As Information Gathering. Cognitive Science. doi: 10.1111/cogs.12245

Yu, Y. & Kushnir, T. (2014).  Social Context Effects in 2- and 4-year-olds' Selective Versus Faithful Imitation. Developmental Psychology, 50(3). doi: 10.1037/a0034242  

Vredenburgh, C., Kushnir, T. & Cassasola, M. (2014). Pedagogical Cues Encourage Toddlers’ Transmission of Recently Demonstrated Functions to Unfamiliar Adults. Developmental Science. DOI: 10.1111/desc.12233

Chernyak, N., Kushnir, T. (2013). Giving preschoolers choice increases sharing behavior. Psychological Science, 24(10), 1971–1979.

Chernyak, N., Kushnir, T., **Sullivan, K., Wang, Q. (2013). A Comparison of American and Nepalese Children's Concepts of Freedom of Choice and Social Constraint. Cognitive Science, 37(7), 1343-55. doi: 10.1111/cogs.12046.

Kushnir, T., *Vredenburgh, C., & **Schneider, L. A. (2013).  “Who can help me fix this toy?:” The distinction between causal knowledge and word knowledge  guides preschoolers’ selective requests for information. Developmental Psychology.  49(3), 446–453.

Xu, F. & Kushnir, T. (2013). Infants are rational constructivist learners. Current directions in psychological science. 22(1) 28–32. 

Kushnir, T., Xu, F. & Wellman, H. M. (2010).  Young children use statistical sampling to infer the preferences of others. Psychological Science, 21, 1134-1140.

Kushnir, T., Wellman, H. M. & Gelman, S. A.(2008).  The role of preschoolers’ social understanding in evaluating the informativeness of causal interventions. Cognition, 107, pp.1084-1092.

Kushnir, T. & Gopnik, A. (2007).  Conditional probability versus spatial contiguity in causal learning: Preschoolers use new contingency evidence to overcome prior spatial assumptions. Developmental Psychology, 44, 186-196.

Selected Keywords:
Cognitive development, social and personality development, causal learning, social cognition, social learning, theory of mind, conceptual change, statistical learning, causal modeling, computational models of learning, 

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