Susan A. Gelman

University of Michigan

Primary Section: 52, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2012)

Research Interests

My research examines the development of concepts and theories in young children, and the role of language in this process. I have examined the bases of children's categories, how children extend their knowledge by means of inductive inferences, and the intuitive causal theories that children construct.  I have found that in the preschool years, children incorporate non-obvious features into their concepts when learning words, generalizing information to new category members, reasoning about the role of nature versus nurture, and constructing causal explanations. These findings contradict the standard view of children's early thought as concrete or limited to obvious features.  I have also studied how certain linguistic devices (e.g., count nouns, generic sentences) influence these cognitive processes, with data from unrelated language families.  In our research, my group uses a combination of experimentation and fine-grained linguistic analyses of natural conversations.

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