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James W. Pennebaker, Chair The University of Texas at Austin, SEA 4.212, Austin, TX 78712 • (512) 475-7596

Programs of Research

Rebecca S. Bigler, Ph.D.

Dr. Bigler's research has three broad foci. One area of research concerns the cognitive and environmental factors that contribute to the formation of intergroup attitudes. A second area of research concerns the consequences of social stereotyping and prejudice for children’s cognitions and behavior. A third area concerns the mechanisms of social attitude change.

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Jessica A. Church, Ph.D.

Dr. Church's research currently focuses on the development of cognitive skills such as task switching and reading in late childhood and early adolescence. We're interested in how these skills relate to the development of control networks in the brain. In particular, we are interested in the development of short-duration, rapidly-adjusting adaptive control brain networks, how they might be different in typical and atypical development, and how they interact over age with the rest of the brain. To address these questions, we use behavioral methods such as cognitive tests (where we measure reaction times, accuracy on tasks, or eye movements), neuropsychological assessments, neuroimaging (fMRI, resting-state fcMRI), and studies of patient populations (e.g. children with Tourette syndrome or dyslexia).

Leslie B. Cohen, Ph.D. (Retired)

Dr. Cohen's research examines infant perceptual and cognitive development during the first 18 months. By using a simple procedure that involves the infant looking at a slide-projected or computer-generated picture and by recording the infants' visual fixation time, he is investigating how infants organize the visual information they see and how well they remember that information. His research has found consistent developmental differences in infants' organization of simple visual information into complex patterns, objects, and events. He also is examining developmental changes in infants' understanding of concepts and categories, and the relationship between categorization and early language.

Profile | Infant Cognition Laboratory


Catharine H. Echols, Ph.D.

Dr. Echols' research concerns the beginnings of language development. She is interested in the way in which prelinguistic biases may interact with the development of sensitivity to properties of the native language. More specifically, her research focuses on three interrelated questions concerning early language acquisition. A first question concerns how it is that infants recognize the sound patterns and words of their native language. A second question concerns the role of cognitive biases in the identification of word meaning by young children. Finally, a third and related component concerns the extent to which young children use syntactic cues to determine the meanings of words.

Profile | Language Development Lab

Aletha C. Huston, Ph.D.

Professor Aletha Huston, Priscilla Pond Flawn Regents Professor of Child Development, conducts research on the effects of public policies on children's development with a particular focus on children in poverty, child care for young children, and mass media. With Dr. John Wright, she studies the educational uses of television for children.

Huston Web Page


Judith H. Langlois, Ph.D.

Dr. Langlois' research is in the area of social and personality development, social information processing, and the development of social competence. She is particularly interested in the effects of individual characteristics (physical appearance, gender, age) on the differential socialization of males and females and on the development of social behavior. She has recently begun to study the origin of social stereotypes and the mechanisms underlying early social preferences.

Profile | Langlois Social Development Lab


Cristine Legare, Ph.D.

Dr. Legare received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2008. She studies cognitive development with a focus on causal reasoning, conceptual development, and problem solving. Her approach to studying these topics is to integrate theory and research from cognitive developmental psychology and anthropology to examine these basic cognitive processes in particular content areas and cultural contexts. In her current research she is investigating mechanisms of causal knowledge acquisition by examining the development of children's questions and explanations. Her interests also include the co-existence of scientific and religious explanatory frameworks across development.

Profile | Cognition, Culture, and Development Lab


Richard Meier, Ph.D.

Dr. Meier's research interests are in language development, focusing in particular on the relationship between the linguistic input to the child and the child's subsequent learning. One major area of his research has been the acquisition of American Sign Language as a first language. This research examines whether modality affects the course of language acquisition. A second area of research is informed by important issues in child language development, but actually examines learning in the adult. In this research, adults attempt to learn miniature artificial languages. The properties of the linguistic input to these subjects can be manipulated at will--something that cannot be done with young children. The artificial language learning paradigm may give us some insight into the problem of identifying the necessary properties of linguistic input, be the learner an adult or a child.

Profile | Sign Language Acquisition Project


Jacqueline D. Woolley, Ph.D.

My research addresses two basic aspects of children's cognitive development: (1) their beliefs about the nature of reality, and (2) their understanding of mental states and processes. My studies of children's understanding of various realities and non-realities have probed children's ability to distinguish reality from appearance, and their understanding of the fantasy/reality distinction. My most recent work in this area addresses the development of beliefs about magical, fantastical, and religious concepts. Research I have conducted on children's understanding of mind addresses children's understanding of the mental nature and origin of beliefs, desires, dreams, imagination, and pretense, and their understanding of human behavior as a function of these mental states.

Profile | Imagination and Cognition Lab


David S. Yeager

Dr. Yeager's research concerns social cognitive development in adolescence and has three main foci.  In the first, he studies peer victimization and exclusion in adolescence, concentrating on what leads some adolescents to respond to conflicts with aggression, stress, or poor academic performance, while other adolescents are more resilient.  In the second, he studies the psychology of academic achievement, especially students facing academic adversity, with a concentration on students who may face negative stereotypes about their own ability or that of their group.  In the third, he studies research methodology, including (a) optimal questionnaire design; (b) survey sampling; (c) replicating and scaling psychological interventions that address important social problems.

Profile | Adolescent Development Research Group

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