Research

At the StarLab for Mind and Development we investigate how children and adults reason about the social and moral world. Many of the research topics we are interested in lie at the intersection of psychology and philosophy, including topics such as morality, other minds, ownership, fairness, and knowledge. Below, you can find out more about our ongoing research topics, as well as some recent findings.

Our child studies are designed as fun and interesting games for typically developing children from infancy to age 12. They usually take about 10 - 15 minutes, and require only one visit. They are very enjoyable for both children and their parents!

The StarLab is also part of the University of Toronto's Child Study Centre, a group of five research centres interested in cognitive and social development from birth to adulthood!

Moral Judgment

How do children reason about what is good and bad? Which aspects of moral judgment and moral behavior are learned, and which are present very early in life? In this line of work, we investigate the origins of adult moral psychology, uncovering both similarities and differences in moral reasoning across the lifespan.

Ownership

Almost everything we encounter in the course of a day is owned by someone. Without realizing it, we are constantly reasoning about which objects are owned by whom, and what that means for how we can use the objects. In this line of work, we investigate children's and adults' reasoning about who owns what, who can be an owner, and what and who can be owned.

Mind Perception

Who has a mind, and what kinds of minds matter? Why is it more wrong to harm a chimpanzee than a worm? How should we relate to a super-intelligent robot? In this line of research, we investigate what aspects of mental life we attribute to different kinds of beings, and how this leads us to attribute moral rights and responsibilities.

Recent findings

What do we mean when we say, "He's just not the same person anymore"? Does becoming evil make you die?

Children have surprisingly complex theories about the nature of the self!

In which we explain why people actually prefer unequal societies.

Is it better to overcome temptation, or never to be tempted at all? We find a surprising developmental difference!

Why can you own a dog, or a sophisticated robot, but not a human?

Does creating something give you a special moral status?

You look at a clock that reads 10:27am. Little do you know, the clock is stopped. However, it just so happens to be 10:27am. Do you know that it's 10:27am, or do you just believe it?

Children and adults see the eyes as the location of the self!