Renée Baillargeon was born in Québec, Canada, in 1954. She received a B.A. in Psychology (with First Class Honors) from McGill University in 1975 and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981. After conducting postdoctoral studies at MIT in 1981-1982, she joined the faculty of the Psychology Department at the University of Texas at Austin in 1982. The following year, she moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she has remained throughout her career and is now Alumni Distinguished Professor Emerita of Psychology. Professor Baillargeon?s research focuses on infants’ causal reasoning in four core domains: physical, psychological, biological, and sociomoral reasoning. She is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society and the Association for Psychological Science. She was awarded the Boyd R. McCandless Young Scientist Award from the American Psychological Association in 1990, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1991, the International Research Prize from the Fyssen Foundation in 2013, a Sage Center Distinguished Fellowship in 2015, and an Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Child Development from the Society for Research in Child Development in 2017.

Research Interests

Renée Baillargeon's laboratory studies infants' causal reasoning in four core domains: physical, psychological, biological, and sociomoral reasoning. In each domain, they seek to uncover the skeletal framework of principles and concepts that shapes how infants reason and learn about events. In the physical domain, they have shown that principles of persistence, gravity, and inertia guide early expectations about how events will unfold. These principles also contribute to infants' acquisition of physical rules, via an explanation-based learning process. In the psychological domain, Baillargeon's laboratory has demonstrated that infants are capable of attributing to agents sophisticated mental states such as false beliefs and deceptive intentions to implant false beliefs. Infants then use these mental states, together with a principle of rationality, to predict agents' actions. In the biological domain, their research has shown that infants identify novel entities that are both self-propelled and agentive as animals and expect them to have filled insides that causally support their functioning. Finally, their experiments in the sociomoral domain have revealed that infants expect individuals to adhere to principles of fairness, harm avoidance, ingroup support, and authority; current research explores how infants evaluate immoral individuals who deviate from these principles and virtuous individuals who exceed them.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 52: Psychological and Cognitive Sciences