Research Assistant Positions: Cognitive Development in Infants

Research Assistant Positions: Cognitive Development in Infants
Professor Elizabeth Spelke, Laboratory for Developmental Studies, Psychology/FAS and Harvard-MIT Center for Brainsk, Minds, and Machines
Spring 2021 (remote research environment)



Seeking interested and motivated students to assist with research in Prof. Elizabeth Spelke's cognitive development lab, under the aegis of the Laboratory for Developmental Studies and the Harvard-MIT Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines. Most of the research in the lab uses behavioral methods, focused on infants' spontaneous actions of looking at, reaching for, or smiling to objects and people, to investigate the basic cognitive capacities of infants, toddlers, and children, with an emphasis on the development of perception and knowledge of objects and their mechanical interactions, agents and their instrumental actions, people and their social interactions, number, and geometry. Current research projects in the infant lab focus on topics including infants' attribution to objects, infants' attributions of goals and intentions to agents, infants' attributions of perceptions, beliefs, and emotions to people, infants’ understanding of the social world, and infants' inferences about the geometrical properties of visual forms. Experimental research on these topics is conducted in collaboration with investigators developing computational models of human cognition and its development, and with investigators exploring the brain systems underlying these capacities. Current projects in the child lab focus on the development of numerical, geometrical, social-cognitive, and reading abilities in preschool- and elementary school-aged children, with a focus on testing interventions to enhance the readiness of disadvantaged children for learning across such domains. Some of this research is conducted in collaboration with economists conducting randomized field experiments assessing the effectiveness of such interventions at scale. Responsibilities: While working remotely in the lab, research assistants will be responsible for recruiting and scheduling infant and child participants and their families, assisting lab researchers in testing infants and children, interacting with families who participate in remote study sessions, coding infant looking time responses and toddler behavioral responses, and working with grad students to complete tasks specific to their research. Requirements: Research assistants work in the lab for 10 hours per week and attend weekly course meetings during which grad students discuss their research interests and the current state of their research projects. Additional Information: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all of our studies are currently being run remotely. We thus anticipate that all work-related duties will be conducted online, with study appointments being held over Zoom, or other online platforms. Throughout the semester, students have the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of research topics within cognitive science. Additionally, each student is paired with a grad student or postdoc in the lab so as to focus on one topic in depth. We accept students to work in the lab for course credit (1652r), as part of the college work-study program, or (in rare cases) as volunteers. We are also especially welcoming of students who are considering honors thesis projects with an interdisciplinary focus, addressed to these or related topics. This course is open to students of all concentrations and there are no prerequisites, though preference is given to students whose academic interests dovetail with those of the lab's investigators and students. The weekly course meeting time is TBD and students' schedules will be taken into consideration. We anticipate funding being available for work-study eligible students, and we encourage such students to apply. Students should check with their Financial Aid Officer to determine if they are work-study eligible before applying. To Apply: If interested, please contact lab manager Bill Pepe at wpepe@g.harvard.edu with a completed application. (posted 1/2021)