Faculty Members

Dr. Susan Gelman          Conceptual Development Lab

Susan Gelman studies concepts and language in young children. She is especially interested in how children organize their experience into categories, how categories guide children’s reasoning, how children discover and reason about non-obvious aspects of the world, and the role of language in these processes.

Dr. Ioulia Kovelman          Language and Literacy Lab

Dr. Kovelman is a developmental cognitive neuroscientist, and an Associate Professor of Psychology, interested in how bilingual children learn language and literacy. Her research program includes both behavioral as well as brain imaging studies of language and literacy acquisition, in typically developing children, as well as children with learning difficulties.

Dr. Felix Warneken          Social Minds Lab

Felix Warneken studies the origins of human social behavior, with a focus on the development and evolution of cooperation and morality. He uses developmental and cross-cultural studies with children, as well as comparative studies with nonhuman apes.


Dr. Henry Wellman          Infant Cognition Project

Henry Wellman researches how children understand their own and others’ desires, intentions, thoughts, knowledge and ideas—their theories of mind. Theory of mind is a large part of children’s lives, influencing their social interactions, well-being, transition to school, understanding of and play with animals and understanding of and interaction with smart technology and social robots. Interns in my lab will work on projects researching several of these topics, including research with children, robots and dogs.

Graduate Students & Postdocs

Rachel FineGraduate Student

Rachel received her B.A. in Psychology and Spanish from Elmhurst College. She served as the English Language Learner Special Education Specialist for the School City of East Chicago, IN and later became the lab manager for Dr. Sian Beilock at the University of Chicago.  She investigates how children and adults perceive non-discrete identities (for ex.being multiracial, gender non-conforming or a dual national) and how this relates to their beliefs about race, gender and nationality.

Danielle LabotkaGraduate Student

Danielle received her B.A. in Comparative Human Development and Anthropology at the University of Chicago. While she was there, she worked in Dr. Katherine Kinzler’s Development of Social Cognition Lab. Her current research focuses on how communication between two different groups can impact their reasoning about the other and their social group. In particular, she is exploring how native speakers’ speech towards non-native speakers can impact both parties’ evaluations of each other, their respective social groups, and the situation.

Young-eun Lee- Graduate Student          personal website

Young-eun is a PhD student in Developmental Psychology at the University of Michigan. She got her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Yonsei University, South Korea. Prior to joining UM, she received her master’s degrees in Psychology from Yonsei University and Harvard University. Young-eun studies the development of altruistic punishment in children. She is particularly interested in children’s enforcement of social norms (e.g., fairness norms) and its underlying mechanisms.

Nia Nickerson–  Graduate Student

Nia is a first year graduate student in the Combined Program in Education and Psychology. She graduated from the University of Maryland College Park with her B.A. in Psychology in the spring of 2018. Her current research interests include the influence of socialization and culture on cognitive development, brain development, and academic achievement in young children.

Ariana OrvellGraduate Student 

Ariana received her BA in Urban Studies and Psychology from Columbia University. She then taught Kindergarten and First Grade through TFA while receiving her MAT from the Relay Graduate School of Education. She is interested in how subtle shifts in language impact construal, meaning-making, and self-control. In another line of work, she studies how stereotypes influence individuals’ identities and motivation.

Sarah Probst Graduate Student          personal website

Sarah is a PhD student at the University of Michigan. She received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 and then worked as project coordinator of the Social Development Lab at the University at Buffalo. Currently she is studying the cognitive and affective mechanisms influencing helping behaviors in infants and toddlers using novel eye-tracking methodology.

Xin SunGraduate Student

Xin is a graduate student in the Combined Program in Education and Psychology at UM. She received her B.S. in Psychology from Beijing Normal University in 2016. She is broadly interested in learning processes and language and literacy.


Rachna Reddy– Ph.D. candidate Anthropology          personal website

Rachna received her B.A. in Evolutionary Anthropology from Duke University. She is interested in the emotional and cognitive underpinnings of social relationships, their function, and how they change over time and at boundaries of social life. Current projects include research on social interactions between adolescent chimpanzees living in the wild at Ngogo in Kibale National Park, Uganda, and social interactions between young children and animals living here in Ann Arbor. Projects this summer will focus on how children think feel, and understand the minds of pet dogs, and how they form relationships with them.

Sebastian GrüneisenPost Doctoral Researcher                            personal website

Sebastian studied psychology at Northumbria University and the University of St Andrews in the UK, and completed his PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. His research investigates the developmental and evolutionary origins of human cooperation. To this end, he adapts game theory paradigms for experimental studies with children and nonhuman great apes, particularly chimpanzees. Using this approach, he aims at uncovering the cognitive and motivational components underlying cooperative decision-making in humans and our closest evolutionary relatives.

Kristan Marchak- Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Kristan received a BA in Psychology and French Language and Literature and an MSc in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Alberta, Canada. She recently completed her PhD in Developmental Psychology at the University of British Columbia, Canada. Her research examines how children 1) reason about individuals over time and as they experience change and 2) form categories of different kinds of things in the world.

Nicole WenPost Doctoral Researcher          personal website

Nicole received her B.S. in Psychology, B.A. in Plan II Honors, and then completed her Ph.D. in Cognitive and Developmental Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Nicole is interested in the development of social cognition and is particularly interested in the role of cultural conventions in children’s prosocial behaviors and cooperation with in- and out-group members.

Lab Managers

Luke Quarles– Social Minds Lab

Luke is the lab manager for the Social Minds Lab. He received his bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Animal Behavior Ecology and Conservation from Canisius College and has studied social behavior in both children and chimpanzees. Luke is interested in the development of social cognition, particularly with regard to cooperation.

Jessica KimLanguage and Literacy Lab

Jessica is the current lab manager for the fNIRS laboratory. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Information with minor in Applied Statistics at UM School of Information in 2017 and has experience in data analysis and visualization. She currently assists researchers in data collection and data analysis in fNIRS.

Nicole Cuneo– Conceptual Development Lab

Nicole currently works as the research manager for the Conceptual Development Lab. She received her B.A. in Cognitive Science, on the Cognition and Language Track from the University of Michigan. She studies how children form judgments about different groups and how language can influence these judgments. More broadly, she is interested in language development and children’s social cognition.

Natalie ToomajianInfant Cognition Project

Talie is the lab manager for the Infant Cognition Project. She is currently working toward her B.S. in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience from the University of Michigan. She is interested in the social relationship between young children and animals as well as the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders. This summer, Talie will be working on projects that focus on how children think feel, and understand the minds of pet dogs, and how they form relationships with them.