Current Research Interests

Ritual Understanding

Adults observe a series of opaque ritual-like gestures towards objects, and we observe how they make decisions. Key Question: ‘How do adults interpret causally opaque ritual actions, and in what does this influence their behaviour and perceptions?‘.

Key figures: Mark Nielsen

Status: Study 1, 2 and 3 (available here: Publications). Study 3 (Behavioural Replication in Adults) underway.

 

Children observe a series of opaque ritual-like gestures towards objects, and we observe how they make decisions. Key Question: ‘At what point in development do children begin to understand the significance of various actions in an adult-like way?‘.

Key figures: Mark Nielsen

Status: Study 1 and 2 (Ritual development in children in Cross Cultural Contexts) in prep.

 

Children and the Supernatural 

Evidence is mixed regarding the degree to which children consider supernatural agents as ‘real’, and the degree to which their ‘presence’ influences their behaviour. Key Question: What cognitive and social consequences do morally concerned supernatural agents have on children’s behaviour?

Key figures:  Mark Nielsen

Status: Data collection.

 

Longitudinal study of a Child’s belief in Supernatural agents.

A child tend to have more experience and evidence for Santa than they do for Dinosaurs or Germs. What factors support belief in impossible, unreal, or hard-to-believe-in agents over time. Key Question: How does the variable prominence of particular agents in the media influence a child’s conviction over time.

Key Figures: Nicole Nelson, Thalia Goldstein.

Status: In progress.  

 

Children, Ritual, and In-Group Belonging

Children participate in a ritual (or a matched task) then engage in various behaviour tasks related to their group. Key Question: How does ritual entry to a group influence a child’s behaviour toward both in- and out-group members? 

Key Figures: Cristine Legare (University of Texas at Austin), Mark Nielsen, Rachel Watson-Jones.

Status: In progress.  

 

Agent Based Modelling Research

 

CREDs 

An Agent-Based Model extends Henrich’s theory of CREDs in important new direction. Key Question: Can the theory of CREDs account for it’s ultimate origins? Can CREDs be extended to include continuous variables, deception, and inter-group competition?

Key Figures: Solo Project

Status: In Prep.

 

Contagious Yawning.

How can the use of Agent-Based Models shed light on the phenomena of ‘contagious yawning’?  To what extent are there assumptions hidden in the literature regarding this phenomenon – which include statistical assumption, as well as the very premise that yawns are ‘contagious’. Key Question: Can ABM provide a new analytical tool to understanding a potentially problematic phenomenon?

Key Figures: Solo Project

Status: In Prep.  

 

Science Museum Research

Science Museums are increasingly relevant for developmental research. As part of an emerging collaborative arrangement with a Science Museum, I am conducting (within various and varied collaborations) research relating to the performance of such museums.

Key Figures: Currently Top Secret. Or maybe it’s just an ordinary secret.

Status: In progress.

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