Associate Professor of Psychological Science
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 2007
4332 Social and Behavioral Sciences Gateway
Contextual influences on cognitive development in infancy and early childhood
Cognitive development proceeds at a rapid rate during infancy and early childhood. Over the first three years of life, infants who initially only understand the world as a “blooming, buzzing confusion” (James, 1890) come to know that objects exist even when they cannot be seen, acquire the ability to use gestures and language to convey wants and needs, and learn that others often have ideas and feelings that differ from their own. Each of these advances relies on the ability to remember past events, the cognitive ability that forms the core of my research program.
To date, my work has contributed to our collective understanding of advances in recall memory and related abilities in the first years of life. Whereas developmental processes underlying the emergence and development of recall capabilities is relatively well characterized, information is lacking as to how contextual factors, from individual difference variables to broader societal influences, shape cognitive development. The goal of my research program is to provide this knowledge, ultimately allowing for a more contextualized and, hence, more accurate understanding of precisely how episodic memory emerges and operates early in life.
My work has examined the impact of three influences on early cognitive development: infant language comprehension abilities, infant sleep habits, and developmental disabilities that co-occur with structural damage to regions of the brain implicated in higher-level cognitive processes. In this last line of work, I study infants and children with Down syndrome as well as those who have been affected by early iron deficiency. Together, this program of research places memory development in context, with theoretical and practical implications. Theoretically, examining contextual influences on memory in infancy and childhood allows for a more nuanced understanding of how cognitive development proceeds. In terms of practical application, my work is important for understanding the cognitive abilities of individuals with developmental disabilities as well as means to facilitate improved functional outcomes more broadly.
For more information about my research, please visit the UCI Memory and Development Lab website.
For more information about how to become involved in the lab as a graduate or undergraduate research assistant or to participate in our research with your children, please click here.