We are a group of scientists studying how the mind works, and how cognition develops in early childhood. Our lab is based in UC San Diego's Department of Psychology and directed by Dr. Adena Schachner.

We are interested in how infants and children come to navigate the social world, by making inferences about the hidden contents of others' minds. To probe this, we study how infants, children and adults infer the goals and preferences of others -- in order to explain their actions, and the objects they own and create.

The lab maintains a secondary focus on music cognition, including the origins of our capacity to move in time with a beat. We often use music cognition as a window into novel aspects of social cognition, leveraging musical phenomena to answer questions about mental state inference.

We use a variety of methods to study cognition in infants, children and adults, both in the lab and around the world via the internet.

Major Research Projects
Social inferences from artifacts: As adults, we judge others' traits, interests, and affiliations from the artifacts others own, wear and carry. How does this capacity develop, and is it impaired in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder? Learn more
Goal inference and action concepts: We can't see others' goals directly - we infer them, using the assumption that people move efficiently toward the object they want. Dance and ritual actions don't fit this mold, though! How do we categorize and represent dance-like actions? Learn more
Inferring the causes of (music-like) sounds: When and on what basis do we infer that sounds were created by animate agents? Learn more
Infant social cognition: Do infants use other's past behavior to choose one person over another? Do infants understand social categories? Learn more
The development of mental theories: How do we begin to understand and differentiate between the different domains of the natural world -- artifacts of animate agents as different from inanimate objects, and artifacts as different from the natural world? Learn more
The origins and social consequences of entrainment: Why can humans universally move to a beat, while other primates cannot? How did this ability evolve, and how does it develop? Does synchronized movement affect social behavior? Learn more
Other Interests
Replicability in science: How can we increase the importance of replicability, incentivize replication, and conduct meta-analyses to promote a nuanced understanding of replication data? Learn more
Mentorship in science: We strongly believe in the value of providing good mentorship for students and younger researchers. We hold workshops to train junior researchers in all stages of the scientific process. Learn more