Research (Lab Website)
How do young children reason about the complex world of people, objects, animals, and events? Do they understand the world solely through what is available on the surface—what is observable, concrete, and obvious? Or do they look beyond the surface to reason about deeper, hidden constructs? My research explores how young children move beyond what is perceptually available and reason about the non-obvious. I address this central theme through two distinct, but related lines of work.
My first line of research examines infants’ reasoning about the non-obvious properties of people. Our commonsense understanding that human behavior is motivated by non-obvious internal causes, such as desires, intentions, thoughts, and beliefs—known as theory of mind—serves as the foundation for our ability to navigate the social world. In recent years, exciting research on the origins and precursors of theory of mind has revealed that already within the first year of life, infants possess considerable knowledge about others’ minds. Building off of these findings, in my current work I am examining when and how infants develop an understanding of human behavior as intentional--motivated by subjective, internal causes. I am particularly interested in the mechanisms by which an understanding of intention develops and how this milestone relates to other contemporaneous developmental achievements, such as joint attention and self-locomotion.
My second line of research examines children’s reasoning about abstract kinds. Kinds are categories of objects (stoves), people (strangers), animals (birds), etc. that share many similarities including non-obvious ones that go beyond perceptual features and statistical regularity (e.g., function, traits, internal parts). Kinds are conceptual abstractions that are not directly observable. Thus, studying how children learn and reason about kinds offers insight into how they learn and reason about the non-obvious. To investigate children’s thinking about kinds, I have explored their use and comprehension of generic noun phrases. Generics (e.g., Stoves are hot; Don’t talk to strangers; Birds lay eggs) refer directly to kinds (e.g., the abstract category of stoves, strangers, or birds) and express broad generalizations about shared properties of category members. Generics appear frequently in natural speech and provide an important means of conveying information about categories. In my work, I examine how children interpret generics and what this can tell us about their reasoning about abstract categories.
Brandone, A. C., Stout, W., & Moty, K. (2019). Triadic interactions support infants’ emerging understanding of intentional actions. Developmental Science. doi: 10.1111/desc.12877
Brandone, A. C., & Klimek, B. (2018). The developing theory of mental state control: Changes in beliefs about the controllability of emotion from elementary school through adulthood. Journal of Cognition and Development, 19, 509-531.
Brandone, A. C. (2017). Changes in beliefs about category homogeneity and variability across childhood. Child Development, 88, 846-866.
Brandone, A. C. (2015). Theory of mind and behavior. In R. Scott & S. Kosslyn (Eds.), Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
Brandone, A. C. (2015). Infants’ social and motor experience and the emerging understanding of intention. Developmental Psychology, 51, 512-523.