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Cognitive Development

Although there is no developmental psychology program per se at Northwestern, several of the labs within the cognitive psychology area focus on issues relating to cognitive development. Within these labs, experimental participants range from infants to early elementary school students. The following is a listing of cognitive faculty members currently doing developmental work, as well as a brief overview of the research questions they are addressing.

Dedre Gentner


Developmental Interests: The Gentner lab works with children from 30 months to 7 years of age, with a focus on children between 3 and 5. Professor Gentner is interested in issues concerning the development of an understanding of similarity, analogy, and metaphor. Additional areas of interest include language acquisition and spatial cognition.

Susan Hespos

Associate Professor

Developmental Interests: The Hespos lab works with infants from birth to 12 months of age. Professor Hespos studies how our brains work by looking at the origins of our cognitive abilities in infancy. Current projects focus on what infants know about objects, space, and numbers. Additional areas of interest include the neural mechanisms of object perception.

Douglas Medin


Developmental Interests: Professor Medin is studying the generality of the development of categorization and category-based reasoning by looking at children from different cultures, languages, and types of interactions with the domain of inquiry. Research so far suggests that different patterns emerge when these factors are varied.

David Uttal

Associate Professor

Developmental Interests: Professor Uttal focuses on toddlers and preschoolers. Specific questions asked in his lab concern cultural differences in mathematics cognition and achievement, as well as the understanding that one thing can stand for (or symbolize) another.

Sandra Waxman


Developmental Interests: The Waxman lab works with children ranging from infancy to 4 years of age. Most of this work focuses on language acquisition and categorization. Professor Waxman studies the role that words play in the formation of categories, as well as the effect of syntax on how children apply these words.