When you think about someone pretending, how does your mind process that information? Does a child's mind process it in the same way as an adult's does? We have studied this question by having children and adults listen to or read about people pretending. Then we measure how quickly they are able to respond to ideas that were present in those stories. Now we are exploring it in toddlers by measuring how long they look at various pretend episodes.
How do children navigate the boundary between pretense and reality?
Do we ever confuse pretense and reality? Do children bring real-world rules into pretending? One study we are doing explores whether people think it is okay to break a moral rule in a pretend situation. Another concerns whether children can learn a rule about cause-and-effect in pretending.
Do children prefer to learn from people have the same beliefs as they do?
Young children equate pretending with behaving, while older children realize pretending involves the mind and brain. We found that children would rather learn about pretending from a person who understands pretending in the same way they do.
This study was done in collaboration with David Sobel at Brown University.
Are pretending and inhibitory control related? Are prosocial behaviors and inhibitory control related? Are abstract thinking and inhibitory control related?
Several of our studies probe the link between the ability to control one's own mind and body and other cognitive abilities. Our results strongly suggest that having good control is good for pretending! And, we have found a similar relationships between inhibitory control and preschoolers' prosocial behaviors, like helping and sharing, as well as adolescents' abstract reasoning.
How does pretend play influence literacy skills in preschool?
We know that play and literacy are positively related. But, we don't know why this might be. In collaboration with Marcy Zipke, Assistant Professor of Education, we have explored why play is good for literacy skills.