What do we research?

In our lab, we are interested in the social and cognitive development of children. To study this, we conduct studies with children ranging from toddlers to elementary-school-aged children. These studies are designed as games for children and constitute a fun, free and novel activity for kids and their families.

We study many concepts related to cognitive development, such as:

Selective social learning

Children do not absorb everything that everyone teaches them: They are actually quite picky learners and prefer to learn from some people over others. For example, children generally prefer to learn from adults over children; however, for “childish” topics (e.g., toys), they will prefer to learn from other children, who are considered experts in that domain. In the same way, if a preschooler has a question about cars, s/he will most likely choose to ask a mechanic over a cook.  

Illusion of control

Sometimes, people overestimate the control they have over a situation. Take for instance someone who strongly believes they are in control of winning the lottery by choosing specific numbers. They actually have no control over this situation, but still have the feeling that they do. This is called the illusion of control. A child may also have this illusion, thinking for example that it is s/he, and not chance, who is responsible for winning in a coin toss game. The illusion of control can make a child feel overconfident in some situations, and this may affect their learning strategies in some of the situations we study in our research.

Theory of mind

Theory of mind is the ability to understand that other people have their own thoughts and emotions, which can be different from our own. A child who demonstrates theory of mind will understand that even if he feels a certain way or has a certain thought, it does not mean that everyone else in the room feels the same way or has the same thought. All children possess some theory of mind abilities, but this is an ability that typically gets better with age and actually improves a lot during the preschool years. A child’s understanding of other people’s perspective can affect their social learning strategies in some of the situations we study in our research.

Location and hours

We are located on the University of Ottawa campus in the Vanier building (136 Jean-Jacques Lussier), on the sixth floor. Currently, all of our studies are done online over Zoom. We have availabilities for appointments during weekdays, evenings, and weekends. To participate online, email us at child.thinking@uOttawa.ca or fill in our participant intake form.

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