How do children make sense of the crazy stuff they see going on around them? In the Study of Children’s Thinking we ask children strange questions and hope they give us sensible answers.Some of the questions we ask involve learning from evidence. We want to know how children use what they have seen in the past to make predictions about the future. Will the next grad student in the lab also hang from monkey bars? Specifically, we are looking at the development of conditional probability judgments and sensitivity to sampling. In general, we try to argue that children’s use of evidence is best understood as inferential rather than as associative.
A second line of research explores social cognition, especially children’s normative reasoning. Often the best way to make sense of people’s behavior is to refer to rules, norms, or obligations. Why are we hanging from monkey bars? I guess that’s what lab members are supposed to do. Certainly, children spend a lot of their lives being told what they should and shouldn’t do. We want to know how children come to understand that normative “should”. The general idea here is that reasoning about norms plays a much larger role in children’s (and adults’) social cognition than we often think.