My research aims to use discoveries from cognitive science and neuroscience to help children thrive in school and in life. Specifically, I am interested in understanding what environmental factors support both children’s approach to learning and their capacity to learn.
Few things are more central to children’s relationship to learning than their feelings about effort, especially their judgments about how hard they should try when things get difficult. While many studies suggest that the ability to persist on difficult tasks affects children’s academic achievement, relatively little is known about how young children learn about when and how to deploy effort. Given that effort is a limited resource, it makes sense to not try hard at everything. In work with Dr. Laura Schulz, I explore how young children learn from environmental factors (e.g., social and statistical) about when effort will pay off. Our goal is to elucidate the sources of evidence children use to make inferences about when a task is worth the effort. This research may help parents and educators to foster effortful behavior when it matters most.
Children’s ability to learn is rooted in their neural architecture, which rapidly develops and changes with early life experience. In work with Dr. John Gabrieli, I look at how differential early life environments impact neural structure, function, and cognition. Currently, this work focuses on elucidating the neural mechanisms underlying cognitive success in children from low-socioeconomic backgrounds. My hope is that a better understanding of resilience will inform tailored interventions across diverse environments.