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

[email protected]
Phone: 617-495-3876



Cristina Sarmiento

Lab Coordinator

[email protected]

617 - 496 - 9186

Broadly speaking, I am interested in how children use language to learn about objects and people, and how language and communicative cues guide children's learning from others and within their interactions.

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Elena Luchkina

Research Scientist

I am a cognitive scientist investigating the origins of human symbolic communication, language-mediated, and abstract cognition. For example, I look into how and when we first establish the link between words and mental representations of something we have never experienced (e.g., a person we have never met, a hypothetical scenario) or a concept that has no stable perceptual form (e.g., probability, if-then relations, etc.).

I use a combination of behavioral and eye-tracking measures and employ live acting, video-recordings, video-chat, and online apps in my experimental manipulations. I also employ observational methods and corpus analysis in my research.

Aside from conducting my empirical work, I am a founder and a co-lead of the Social Contingency Consortium – a multinational collaboration of 120+ scholars investigating the role of contingent interactions in learning.

Link to my website: www.elenaluchkina.com

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Peggy Lee

Research Scientist

My central research interest concerns elucidating the relationship between language and cognitive development - How does the emergence of various linguistic expressions in a child's language depend on the child's growing conceptual capacity? Conversely, in what ways does language acquisition itself make certain concepts more saliently available for problem solving? Furthermore, how might language play a role in the creation of new representational structures?


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

[email protected]

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.


Akshita Srinivasan

Graduate Student

[email protected]

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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Yiqiao Wang

Graduate Student

[email protected]

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.

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Ganzhen Feng

Visiting Graduate Student

[email protected]

My primary research interest lies in children's spatial cognition and its development. Specifically, I am interested in how children represent the environment they navigate and how their abstract understanding of geometric information within the environment develops.

Research Assistants

Sanghee 2022
Sanghee Song
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Lucia Vilches
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Cassie Liu
Ayana Lomas
Olivia Pownall
Addie Kelsey
Addie Kelsey
Yujia Liu
Isminur Yilar
Helena Goldbaum
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Kristin Dang
Tiffany Yeo
Cole Kaufmann
Logan Smith
Nicole Xu