Cognitive Development

The Program

The study of cognition in infants, children, and adults and of cognitive development serves as a focal point for several faculty members' research programs. Research topics include attention, memory, intelligence, reasoning and decision-making, causal understanding, categorization, and language development. In addition, for several faculty members, research on cognition and cognitive development includes the recognition that cognition intersects with aspects of social and emotional development and also that it often varies across contexts. Faculty members rely on a set of diverse methodological approaches in their teaching and research.

The Core Faculty

Marianella Casasola
earned her undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Spanish Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her MA and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.  Her expertise is in infant cognitive development and early language acquisition with a special interest in the interaction between cognition and language. She continues to study various aspects of infant cognitive and linguistic development, with a particular focus on 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. In collaboration with Dr. Gary Evans and several graduate students, she also has begun to examine early links between infant cognitive and socio-emotional abilities in middle- and low-income infants.

Michael Goldstein's research focuses on the developmental processes by which knowledge of speech and language is acquired from the social environment.  He uses a comparative approach to study vocal learning and development, and his laboratory is one of the few in the world that has active, in-house research programs on both human infants and songbirds.

Tamar Kushnir's research examines mechanisms of learning in young children. 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.

Barbara Lust's research is framed in an interdisciplinary and cross-linguistic framework, involving the study of first, second and multilingual language acquisition, especially in the child, and links theoretical paradigms of linguistic inquiry to experimental methods of research.  Recently she is involved in building a virtual internet-based  international center for the study of language acquisition and the related science of information integration which it involves.  She is also developing comparative study of language in normal healthy aging in contrast to that in early Alzheimer's Disease.

Qi Wang's interests are at the intersection of cognitive and social development. Integrating developmental, cognitive, and sociocultural perspectives, my research examines the mechanisms underlying the development of a variety of social-cognitive skills, including autobiographical memory, self, future thinking, and emotion knowledge. I am particularly interested in how cultural beliefs and goals influence social cognitive representations and processes by affecting information processing at the level of the individual and by shaping social practices between individuals (e.g., sharing memory narratives between parents and children).

Wendy Williams studies the development, assessment, training, and societal implications of intelligence. She holds Ph.D. and Master's degrees in psychology from Yale University, a Master's in physical anthropology from Yale, and a B.A. in English and biology from Columbia University, awarded cum laude with special distinction. In the fall of 2009, Williams founded (and now directs) the Cornell Institute for Women in Science (CIWS), a National Institutes of Health-funded research and outreach center that studies and promotes the careers of women scientists. She also heads "Thinking Like A Scientist," a national education-outreach program funded by the National Science Foundation, which is designed to encourage traditionally-underrepresented groups (girls, people of color, and people from disadvantaged backgrounds) to pursue science education and careers.

The Curriculum
Undergraduate Level:

Human Brain & Mind: Biological Issues in Human Development

Cognitive Development

Thinking & Reasoning

Human Developmental Neuropsychology

Growth of the Mind

Language Development

Social Cognition & Development

Cybertools for the Scientific Study of Language Acquisition

Concepts and Theories in Childhood

Mind, Self & Emotion

Cognitive, Social & Developmental Aspects of Scientific Reasoning

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

Current Topics in Cognitive Development

Development of Cognitive Sex Differences

Children's Learning in Social Context


Graduate Level:

Cognitive Sex Differences

Memory & the Law

Proseminar on Cognitive Development

Language Acquisition Seminar

Connecting Social, Cognitive, and Emotional Development

Evolutionary Perspectives on Social Cognition