What does your lab study?
Our research is focused on learning about and understanding the cognitive abilities, and particularly the cognitive control, exhibited by humans (children and adults) and other species, primarily the great apes and monkey species. This work is conducted largely at the Language Research Center of Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA, but we also work with species at other locations such as the National Zoo in Washington, DC and at Zoo Atlanta. In addition, we work with children in local day care centers, and also in collaboration with the SUCCESS Lab. Our specific topics include things like self-control, prospective memory, metacognition, perceptual and perceptual illusions, numerical cognition, and various aspects of choice behavior and decision making.
What do children enjoy most about the research?
We try to create tasks for which the rationale makes sense to the children, in a way that makes them want to succeed. They enjoy the challenge of showing how smart they are, and of figuring out rules or even little tricks that let them succeed. Working with the same children for two or three years allows us to see them develop into wonderful young thinkers, with newly emerging cognitive capacities.
What are things families might do at home to improve children's learning?
In nearly all areas that we study, some simple techniques such as practicing (as in the case of learning to count) or engaging in memory games (in the case of improving prospective memory) could help children improve their learning. We also focus on topics such as the emergence of metacognition, which allows learners to control and monitor their own thoughts (and learning processes), and ideally, they come to find methods of making themselves better at studying. We would encourage families to talk with children about how they think about problems, and how they test possible solutions, as these also may help engage metacognitive strategies.