Woolley Lab

The Research Program

Research in the Imagination and Cognition Lab focuses on children’s conceptual development, including topics such as their perceptions of reality and possibility, the role of testimony in children’s beliefs, and the development of scientific and supernatural reasoning.  In our research on children’s reality status judgments, we focus on characteristics of the stimuli (e.g., the properties or traits of an entity), characteristics of the child (e.g., fantasy orientation), and environmental factors (e.g., societal and cultural encouragement to believe).  Our studies are conducted at the Children’s Research Center.

Graduate Students

2015-08-01-12-39-17Jenny Nissel

By high school graduation, a child will have spent more time sitting in front of a television than sitting behind a desk.  Honoring the intimate role that fictional story plays in our young–and adult–lives, I’m interested in how children use narrative to construct beliefs about the world.  Specifically, how can engagement with pretense, literature, and media facilitate moral development, understanding of psychological causality, and belief acquisition? As a child of independent bookstore owners, a graduate of Yale ’08 with a BA in psychology and theater, and four years experience as a professional actor in New York, I will risk a cliché: fiction is a lifelong passion. In my scant spare time when I’m not reading or watching plays, movies, or television, you might find me playing cello, jogging, or daydreaming.

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-3-19-19-pmKelsey Kelley

I’m a grad student in Developmental Psychology at UT Austin and joined the Woolley Lab in the fall of 2016. I grew up in California and earned my BA in Psychology from the University of San Francisco. While at USF, I began exploring the psychological motivations for and individual differences in supernatural belief through my honors thesis- a topic I am still excited about. After graduating, I chose to explore this type of research further and began a full-time research assistant position at Yale University studying the natural cognitive foundations of religious and supernatural belief across development. Here at UT, I am interested in related topics, including the role of control in supernatural belief across development, children’s causal reasoning (including teleological, karmic, and superstitious reasoning) and how children’s beliefs about the scientific and supernatural domains differ and interact. Apart from my research, I’ve been enjoying the live music, tacos, and beautiful swims and hikes that Austin has to offer. I also love to read and pour any remaining energy into loving my two sweet black kittens!

Postdoctoral Fellows 

Hui Li  22

I’m a Developmental Psychology postdoctoral fellow from Tianjin Normal University in China. I received my master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Zhejiang University and my PhD from Central China Normal University. I am interested in exploring how children understand fantasy and its effect on their cognitive development in a media world. My studies focus on 4-6 year old children and their understanding on the reality status of televised fantastical events, as well as how anthropomorphized media affects children’s knowledge of the real world. Recently, I have begun to learn and implement functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) in my research and continue to work with Professor Woolley and my other colleagues on children’s development.

Undergraduate Research Assistants 

  • Kimberly Mendez
  • Emma Riddle
  • Miriam Lamoreaux
  • Haley Womack
  • Kooper Gorden
  • Cameron Hall
  • Roshni Shukla

Project Managers

  • Alexandra Kainer – Giggles
  • Catherine Haberl- Detective
  • Lindsey Davlin- C4 (child)
  • Nicolette Loisel-Perilla – C4 (adult)
  • Meagan Khan – Cultural Enrichment
  • Amanda Cramer – Testimony
  • Avery Largent – Anecdotes
  • Lauren Weinberger – Explicit Belief

Lab Manager

  • Jenny Nissel

Honors Students 

  • Roshni Shukla
  • Emma Riddle – Whiskers
  • Miriam Lamoreaux


Beth Boerger

Louis Bunce

Rebecca Dore

Jean Dunham

Lili Ma

Art Markman

Amanda Rhoads

Ansley Tullos

Former Graduate Students

Katrina Phelps

Marc Bruell

Debra Davis

Beth Boerger

Ansley Tullos

Gabriel Lopez-Mobilia

Chelsea Cornelius

Maliki (Kiki) Ghossainy

Brooke Miller

Former Postdoctoral Fellows

Lili Ma