Current Studies

Illusion of Omniscience : Awareness of Ignorance, Explicit Belief 

Children must learn many things about the world through the testimony of others rather than through direct experience (e.g., the existence of ancient historical figures or microscopic germs)- but that doesn’t mean they simply believe everything they hear. Instead, children use a number of internal and external cues to judge whether or not newly encountered information is true and thus should be incorporated into their base of knowledge. One cue is the way people talk about new information. To address this, we have children judge different kinds of statements made by their parent vs. by unfamiliar adults. Previous research also shows that children sometimes reject novel information when it is in fact true- an error that may relate to an “illusion of omniscience” bias, or overestimation of their own knowledge, leading children to reject new information simply because they have never heard it before. This line of studies explores the relationship between children’s beliefs about their own knowledge and their judgments about the existence of novel entities.


Research with adults indicates that belief in luck is pervasive, impacting behavior and cognition across many different domains. Despite this, little work has focused on children’s luck beliefs. We are investigating whether children hold beliefs in luck and how these beliefs develop. In this study, we present children with a series of questions about luck. We then read them stories about expected and unexpected events and solicit judgments about the role of luck in these events. We are also interested in the relation between family religiosity and beliefs in luck

Detective/Who Would Know 

A child may learn from her mother that Santa left the presents on Christmas morning while a friend on the playground denies Santa exists. Who should she trust? Children receive information about what is true in the world from multiple sources, and often, those sources conflict. In this study, we ask whether children privilege testimony from peers or adults when judging the reality status of novel entities. Tasked with figuring out whether an animal is real or made-up, each participant gets the chance to be a detective, evaluating conflicting evidence from different informants to reach a conclusion.

Children’s Perceptions of Control and Chance

This study explores how children reason about the causes life events, and why different types of explanations appeal to different children. What might make a child more likely to explain an event through superstition, versus an act of god, or some natural, scientific cause? In this study, we read children a series of illustrated stories about things that happen to fictional children (e.g., a sick boy gets better just in time to go on a fun field trip) and ask them to rate different explanations. We are interested in how explanation preferences change across development, and whether other factors, like a child’s perception of control, might predict children’s preferences for different explanations.

Narrative and Prosocial Behavior

Legend has it that Abraham Lincoln, upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, proclaimed “so you’re the little lady who started this great war.” Although the story is likely apocryphal, it can’t be denied that Uncle Tom’s Cabin had a resounding effect on the nation, changing mindset and spurring widespread social change. Why should a novel, something that isn’t real, change belief and incite action? In a set of studies, we are looking at the origins of the effect of narrative on children’s prosocial behavior, specifically charitable giving. Adults give significantly more to charitable causes when presented with an anecdote about an individual in need versus statistics about many in need. We ask whether children are similarly inclined, and if so, what mechanisms drive this effect.

Interested in participating?

If you would like to participate in one of our studies or if you would like to be added to our database for future recruitment, please CONTACT US.