A woman wearing an eyeglass with red frame

Elizabeth Spelke


Please click here to find Elizabeth Spelke's page

Harvard University
Department of Psychology
33 Kirkland St.
Cambridge, MA 02138

Phone: 617-495-3876



Cristina Sarmiento

Lab Coordinator


617 - 496 - 9186



Ashley Thomas

Postdoctoral Fellow


I'm interested in humans as a social species. I have two lines of research. In the first I investigate what infants, toddlers, and children think about social relationships. I've mostly studied how they think and feel about social hierarchy (i.e. situations where there is a 'winner' and a 'loser' or when someone is 'in charge'). Currently, I am postdoctoral fellow working with Elizabeth Spelke and Rebecca Saxe, we're investigating how caregivers influence infant's social evaluations. In my second line of research I'm interested in people's moral judgements of parents, and parenting. I'm also interested in questions like -- where do moral norms come from and how do they change?


Marie Amalric

Postdoctoral Fellow

My research focuses on how the human brain learns, represents, and manipulates abstract mathematical concepts. In my work, I try to bring real-world situations to the lab, by developing and using naturalistic tasks that complement more traditional and controlled tasks. After studying high-level mathematical thinking in professional mathematicians, I now look at the conceptual changes that occur over the course of math education in children. I am addressing this question thanks to a combination of behavioral and fMRI methods.

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Sara Botto

Postdoctoral Fellow


When and how do we begin to care about what others think of us? Using a developmental approach, my research investigates the social-cognitive underpinnings of reputational concerns. The goal is to a) explore the cognitive prerequisites for reputational concerns to develop in early childhood; and b) understand the cognitive and social factors that explain variation in children’s concern for reputation. In addition to exploring the development of reputation in early childhood, I am also interested in the cues infants use to understand social partners.


Shari Liu

Postdoctoral Fellow



My research asks how we come to understand people’s actions in terms of variables like effort, desire, and risk.



Akshita Srinivasan

Graduate Student


I am interested in studying how children learn compositional concepts. In order to learn mathematics, children need to develop an understanding of the ways in which numbers combine to form larger numbers. Similarly, to learn to read, they need to develop an understanding of the ways in which the sounds of their language combine to form words, and the ways in which words combine to form sentences. Such compositional systems have extraordinary expressive power as a limited set of foundational concepts, together with the rules for combining them, lead to potentially unbounded abilities to calculate with numbers and read texts. However, they are hard for children to learn. In my research, I am studying why compositional concepts are hard for children to learn and what kinds of interventions can best support their learning.

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Brandon Woo

Graduate Student


My research asks how humans come to understand others' actions and minds, particularly in social contexts. Through studies of infants and toddlers, I aim to reveal our early-emerging knowledge of other people and to characterize the developmental foundations of human learning, cooperation, and social life more broadly.


Joe Coffey

Graduate Student


In order to learn language quickly and efficiently, children must be able to take advantage of the learning opportunities that are available in their surroundings. Because these opportunities vary greatly across households, communities, and cultures, children need to be flexible and adaptive in how they learn from those around them. My research investigates how the kinds of input children encounter shape the ways they learn from others, as well as how that input is affected by the values and beliefs of their caregivers and communities.



Rhea Howard

Graduate Student


I am interested in the evolution and development of human cooperation and sociality. My work focuses on social inferences and interpersonal valuation—how we infer others’ values and social relationships from their actions, and how we decide who to cooperate with, who to sacrifice for, who to ignore, and who to punish. I investigate these abilities across developmental time-points, looking to infants, children, and adults to understand the trajectory of social decision-making and relationship building and to uncover the inferential mechanics which render our highly dynamic social world intuitive.

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Yiqiao Wang

Graduate Student


My research interest is in the origin and early development of human mathematical knowledge. I'm interested in how young children acquire number concepts, how they learn the meanings of number words, and how natural language may foster the development of their number concepts.

Research Assistants

Nicholas Kendall
Gianna Zades
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Laura Lee
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Sam Gregory
Samuel Gregory
Gabriel Chisholm
Gabriel Chisholm
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Lucia Vilches
Amber Liu
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Qianqian Chen
Simran Sanjay
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Andrea Ventura
Becky Chen
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Simon Lam
Belen Cerda Luna