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

I’m a Ph.D. student in developmental psychology at UT Austin, where I research how children differentiate fantasy from reality, form new beliefs, and engage with fictional worlds. After earning my BA in Psychology and Theater from Yale University, I spent half a decade acting professionally in New York City before returning to psychology. Prior to joining the Imagination and Cognition Lab, I managed Dr. Ellen Winner’s Arts and Mind Lab at Boston College.

In my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing, doing yoga, and playing the cello. 


Paola Baca

I am a first-year Ph.D. student in developmental psychology immensely interested in researching children’s impossible beliefs, fantasy-reality distinctions, and theory of mind development. Inspired by having grown up by the U.S.-Mexico border, I am also looking to integrate both cultural and linguistic factors into these topics. Prior to joining the graduate program, I attended the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in psychology and minoring in mathematics.  

Outside of research, I enjoy spending time with my cat, traveling, doing yoga, and listening to music. I also enjoy being involved in mutual aid efforts around my community


Lab Manager

Melanie Lown

I graduated with a BA in Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.  I also hold a BFA in Dance and secondary teaching certification.  I previously taught high school and served as a Board Member for the Texas Dance Educators’ Association, working to advance fine arts in Texas public schools for grades K-12.  I am interested in developmental and clinical psychology, as well as the formation of beliefs.

Outside of work I enjoy reading, exploring my hometown of Austin, and spending time with my husband and dogs, Bogey the Beagle and Dahlia the Dalmatian.

Undergraduate Research Assistants 

  • Abbi Zametz
  • Claire Perkins
  • Eleanor Gambrell
  • Emma Brunk
  • Jasmine Xu
  • Matt Finch
  • Muskan Shah
  • Riley Shin
  • Ruth Esther Apura
  • Zachary Bricken

Honors Students 

  • Candice Ma
  • Cameron Bates
  • Katherine Bos
  • Julia Fishkind
  • Phoebe Cates


Beth Boerger

Louis Bunce

Rebecca Dore

Jean Dunham

Lili Ma

Art Markman

Amanda Rhoads

Ansley Tullos

Former Graduate Students

Kelsey Kelley

Katrina Phelps

Marc Bruell

Debra Davis

Beth Boerger

Ansley Tullos

Gabriel Lopez-Mobilia

Chelsea Cornelius

Maliki (Kiki) Ghossainy

Brooke Miller

Former Postdoctoral Fellows

Hui Li

Lili Ma