Social Learning Lab

Stanford University

About our research

We learn about the world by drawing rich, abstract inductive inferences that go beyond what we can observe, and what we observe often originates from representations of the world that reside in other people’s minds. What we know about the world is therefore heavily mediated by what others know about the world, and importantly, we also have the ability to affect what others know by sharing our own knowledge with them. In our everyday interactions with people around us, we seem to have an intuitive grasp of what kind of information to seek and to provide.

The Social Learning Lab (SLL) aims to understand the cognitive and the neural mechanisms that underlie the communicative interactions we experience in our everyday lives: between a teacher and a student, a caregiver and a child, or any provider of information and its recipient. In particular, the ways in which young children learn from others provide a unique window to the interface between our ability to draw rational, inductive inferences and our ability to understand others’ thoughts and behaviors (Theory of Mind). Furthermore, our research interests extend to the representations and the inferential processes involved in reasoning about the costs, values, and utilities of informational transfer, a critically important ability for deciding when to learn from whom, about what.

Our projects will employ a wide range of methods (e.g., behavioral experiments, fMRI) with human subjects of all ages (from infants to adults). Using diverse approaches, we hope to make progress towards a full description of the cognitive and neural mechanisms that allow these informative interactions to occur, both in the minds of the learners, and in the minds of the teachers.

Joining our lab

The lab welcomes motivated, enthusiastic individuals who would like to join the journey. We are currently looking for undergraduate research assistants. The current projects in the lab investigate how children and adults learn from others and teach others, how they make altruistic decisions for others, and how they think about their own minds and the minds of others. Some projects involve testing young children (2 – 6 yrs) at the Bing Nursery School or at a local museum; other projects involve behavioral and neuroimaging (fMRI) experiments with adults.

As a research assistant, you will help out with developing materials for studies, subject recruitment, and running experiments with children and adults. Some assistants may aid with fMRI scans (separate training required). Minimal commitment is 8-10 hours/week for at least two quarters and preferably longer!

Ideal candidates will be reliable, highly motivated, and detail-oriented. Previous research experience and/or working with children are not necessary but preferable. Research assistants can work for course credit (PSYCH 195), work-study, or volunteer. To apply, please send a resume and brief statement of interest to sll [dot] stanford [at] gmail [dot] com.