Children’s thinking about possibility

Dr. Samuel Ronfard, Assistant Professor

Mentor: Dr. Samuel Ronfard

Assistant Professor


Project Description

Unlike older children and adults, preschool children typically judge improbable events, such as making blue applesauce or finding an alligator under a bed, to be impossible. This developmental pattern is robust and holds for phenomena across the physical, psychological, and biological domains. Children and adults might be making different judgements about the possibility of improbable events because in adults such judgements involve a two-stage process whereas in children it is initially restricted to one stage of processing. To test this hypothesis, we are bringing children and adults into the lab and asking them to make judgements about the possibility of various phenomena. Across experiments, we manipulate different parameters, for example, how long children and adults have to make these judgements. The SROP student would be expected to help with multiple aspects of this research: transcription, coding participant data, completing analyses, and (perhaps) testing participants. Using existing datasets, the student will work with Dr. Ronfard to complete descriptive and inferential analyses (e.g., ANOVA). Students will be expected to participate in the lab’s reading group (1 hour per week) and a research meeting (1 hour per week). These meetings are integral to the opportunity and, in addition to participating in the research, the best way for students to learn about cognitive developmental research methods and findings.

Mentorship Statement

When working with students, I have two goals. My first goal is to teach students how scientific knowledge is produced so that they can evaluate it and communicate it effectively. My second goal as an instructor is for students to develop their ability to listen, engage with, and incorporate the viewpoints of other people into their work – a cornerstone of scientific thinking. When I train research assistants, I make sure that they are able to engage in multiple phases of the research process. In addition, I require my research assistants to attend a weekly journal club where I walk students through how to read and critique empirical papers. These meetings also provide opportunities to build community and have students learn from each other’s experiences. I wanted to be involved with the SROP because science is better when it incorporates diverse viewpoints and perspectives.

Project ID 401