Current Projects


At the Early Language and Experience Lab, we investigate how infants and young children learn from what other people tell them. We think this is an important question because so much of what we know comes from other people – through direct conversations, from overhearing others, from reading books and newspapers, to using the internet and television. From the many words offered by their parents and others, children learn about language, social values, past and future events, what town they live in, the names of their parents, the geography of the world, scientific discoveries, and many other domains that play important roles in their lives.

As adults, we are very good at learning from others. For example, many of us believe the Pythagorean’s theorem, that nothing goes faster than light, and that dinosaurs are birds. But we would also admit that we could not justify or provide evidence for any of these beliefs if asked. We believe these things not because of observations we’ve made or proofs we’ve discovered, but because we have heard about them from people we trust, people who we suspect could ground their beliefs in convincing arguments. At the same time, we know that we don’t trust everyone. We often doubt claims for various reasons – the source might be notoriously unreliable, the claim may not square with other things we know, the source might be joking or showing signs of insincerity.

How do children decide when to believe what others say and when to be skeptical?

Gender Learning and Trust on Others (GELATO)

Diqi Zeng

Speakers convey their personal characteristics, such as age, gender,
and race, through speech. Previous research shows that children as young as 5 years of age express their developing gender identity through their speech. The current project aims to understand the factors influencing children’s gender development as expressed through speech. This study explores questions such as How children’s gender is perceived through the way they speak. How does children’s perceived gender shape their learning preference towards informants of same-sex and other-sex?


Isaac Bisla

The STARS project aims to examine how children’s selective trust competence predicts resistance to accepting misinformation. We also seek to understand how suggestibility differs based on executive functioning and the theory of mind abilities. All child participants will be presented with a 1-minute silent and narrated vignette involving petty theft. Following the vignette, children will be randomly assigned to an experimental condition consisting of a selective trust task or a control condition consisting of a memory task. Children across all conditions will complete the Theory-of-Mind Scale (Wellman & Liu, 2004) and the Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS) (Carlson, 2021)


Norwood Glaspie

How do social biases form, and more importantly, what are the implications of those biases? The “Structural Reasoning” study investigates how various explanations for social inequalities around wealth and achievement can change children’s views of novel social groups. Psychology has mainly answered this question through the lens of social essentialism, where categories are viewed as having an intrinsic essence; children use category membership to support inferences about properties and behaviors. When we do this, research shows it can lead us to attribute group differences to their inherent nature instead of societal influence, highlighting how essentialist reasoning can lead to ethnic and racial prejudice. This study will explore how providing different types of explanations for social inequalities will influence how children evaluate status disparities based on wealth and achievement.

Testimony and Observation of Novel Social Groups (TONS)

Yeonju Suh

This study aims to identify how testimony and firsthand observation of negative information towards a novel social group is endorsed by children and study the extent to which this belief is held and susceptible to revision. While existing studies have compared testimony and observation, studies have not yet compared these while assessing belief revision in the context of social groups. This study hopes to investigate how sources of knowledge can influence the strength of children’s beliefs about a novel social group.

If you have a young child and would like to find out more information about participating, please call the lab at 612-624-8822, email the lab at or click on the lab email link on the left hand side of the page.