Research Assistant Positions: Cognitive Development (Spelke)




Research Assistant Positions: Cognitive Develoment
Prof. Elizabeth Spelke, Laboratory for Developmental Studies (Psychology/FAS) and Harvard-MIT Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines
fall 2018

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 of abstract properties such as mass, infants' attributions of goals and intentions to agents, infants' attributions of perceptions, beliefs, and emotions to people, 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 aim to connect the basic cognitive abilities that emerge in infants to children's developing mastery of symbols and school mathematics. Some of this research is conducted in collaboration with economists conducting randomized field experiments assessing the effectiveness of such interventions at scale. Responsibilities: 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 when they come to the lab, coding infant looking time responses and toddler behavioral responses, and working with grad students to complete tasks specific to their research. Additional Information: We accept students to work in the lab for course credit (Psychology 1652r), as part of the college work-study program, or (in rare cases) as volunteers. We are especially welcoming of students who are considering honors thesis projects with an interdisciplinary focus, addressed to these or related topics. Psychology 1652r 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. Research assistants work in the lab for 8 hours per week and attend weekly course meetings during which grad students discuss their research interests and the current state of their research projects. The weekly course meeting time is TBD and students' schedules will be taken into consideration. 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. To Apply: If interested, please contact lab manager Bill Pepe at (posted 8/2018)