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. Further, what we observe often originates from representations of the world that reside in other people’s minds. And, most importantly, we also have the ability to share our own knowledge with others to affect what they know. In our everyday interactions with those around us, we seem to have an intuitive grasp of what kind of information to seek and to provide.

But how?

The Social Learning Lab (SLL) aims to understand the cognitive and the neural mechanisms that underlie the communicative interactions we experience in our lives. 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 to our understanding of others’ thoughts and behaviors (Theory of Mind).

Our research interests extend to representations and inferential processes involved in reasoning about costs, values, and utilities of informational transfer, which is a critically important ability for deciding when and what to learn from whom. We 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 study 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.