The youngest members of our species face an enormous task: They must learn not only about the objects that comprise the physical world, but also about the people who inhabit the social world. Further, the social world comprises many individuals with different attributes and dispositions, and these individuals relate to one another in myriad ways—as friends or foes, as bosses or subordinates, and as members of different social groups. How do children navigate the complexities of the social world and make sense of the various ways people can be categorized? And, how do children use this information to make judgments about others (e.g., to decide who is likeable or trustworthy)?
Our research focuses on infants and children. Most of our studies take place in our lab at the Waisman Center, but we also conduct research at preschools and in the Madison Children’s Museum. Examples of current research questions include:
- When and how do children come understand social hierarchies, and how does this influence their evaluations of individuals and groups?
- Why is gender such an important distinction for children early in development, and how do other categories (e.g., race) become meaningful over development?
- What strategies are effective for preventing or ameliorating children’s social biases?