Who We Are

At the Center for Early Childhood Research, we are interested in understanding how infants and children learn and develop. Our researchers address a wide range of developmental areas, from the best ways to teach math to second graders to the ways that young infants learn how to use objects.
Lin Bian, Ph.D

Assistant Professor of Psychology

EArly Social Thinkers Lab (EAST) Laboratory

Lin Bian joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 2021. Before moving to Chicago, she was the Evalyn Edwards Milman Assistant Professor at Cornell University and a Postdoctoral Scholar at Stanford University. She obtained her B.S. in Psychology at Zhejiang University and her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Bian examines the development of social cognition, with an emphasis on children’s reasoning about social categories. Specifically, she has pursued two major lines of research: One line of work focuses on the acquisition and consequences of stereotypes about social groups. The other line of work focuses on infants’ sociomoral expectations. This research has been published in top journals such as SciencePNASPsychological Science, and American Psychologist, and featured in major media outlets such as NYTimesNPRThe Atlantic, and Xinhua Net. Dr. Bian recently received the prestigious NSF CAREER Award to support her work on children’s gender stereotypes about intellectual talents.

Marisa Casillas, Ph.D

Assistant Professor of Comparative Human Development

Chatter Lab

Marisa Casillas
is an assistant professor of Comparative Human Development. She obtained her bachelors in Linguistics and Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and her PhD in Linguistics at Stanford University.
Dr. Casillas studies how cognitive and social processes shape the ways in which children learn, perceive, and produce language. Her lab’s research involves a combination of experimental- and observation-based methods to comparatively investigate these processes in both urban, western contexts and rural, indigenous contexts.
Jean Decety, Ph.D

Irving B. Harris Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry

Child NeuroSuite

Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory

Jean Decety (Ph.D. in neurobiology from the University Claude Bernard, France) is Irving B. Harris Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Chicago. He is a leading scholar on the social and affective neuroscience of empathy, morality, and prosocial behavior, as well as other topics related to neurobiological underpinnings of social cognition. His work has led to new understanding of empathy, affective processes, and moral decision-making in typically developing individuals as well as psychopaths. His research uses neuroimaging techniques (functional MRI and high-density EEG) and genetics to examine how biological and social factors interact in contributing to empathy and the motivation to care for the well-being of others.

Dr. Decety has published a number of books, including the Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience (2011), Empathy from Bench to Bedside (2012), The Moral Brain: A Multidisciplinary Perspective (2015), Social Cognition: Development Across the Life Span (2020), and The Social Brain – A Developmental Perspective (2020). 

Susan Goldin-Meadow, Ph.D

Bearsdley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor

Goldin-Meadow Lab

Susan Goldin-Meadow is the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and has been studying language learning and language creation since her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania in 1975.

Professor Goldin-Meadow has served as a member of the language review panel for NIH, has been a Member-at-Large to the Section on Linguistics and Language Science in AAAS, and was part of the Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development sponsored by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine and leading to the book Neurons to Neighborhoods. She is a Fellow of AAAS, APS, and APA (Divisions 3 and 7). In 2001, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a James McKeen Cattell Fellowship which led to her two recently published books, Resilience of Language and Hearing Gesture.

Katherine D. Kinzler, Ph.D

Professor; Chair, Department of Psychology

Development of Social Cognition Laboratory

Katherine D. Kinzler is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago and the Chair of the Department. Her research sits at the intersection of developmental and social psychology. Her work focuses on the origins of prejudice and ingroup/outgroup thinking, with an emphasis on understanding how language and accent mark social groups. She is also interested in food cognition and moral psychology.  Professor Kinzler joined the faculty of the University of Chicago Department of Psychology in 2008, as a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor.  She spent 2015-2019 at Cornell University, where she served as the Chair of the Department of Psychology. She completed her B.A. at Yale in Cognitive Science, her Ph.D. at Harvard in Psychology, and she was a Fulbright Scholar at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the John Templeton Foundation. Her work has appeared regularly in the New York Times and other media outlets, and she was named a “Young Scientist,” one of 50 scientists under age 40 recognized by the World Economic Forum.

Susan Levine, Ph.D

Rebecca Anne Boylan Professor in Education and Society

Cognitive Development Lab

Susan Levine received her B.A. with honors from Simmons College in 1972, majoring in Psychology, Mathematics and Education, and her Ph.D. in Psychology from M.I.T. in 1976. She joined the faculty at the University of Chicago that year.

Professor Levine has served as the chair for the Department of Psychology as well as for the Developmental Psychology program at the university. She has also chaired the department’s Curriculum Committee, is a member of the Committee on Early Childhood Mathematics and the Committee on Education and served on the board of Chapin Hall.  In addition, Professor Levine is a consultant on early math for the PBS program “Sesame Street.”

Alex Shaw, Ph.D

Associate Professor of Psychology 

Developmental Investigations of Behavior and Strategy Laboratory (DIBS)

Alex Shaw joined the faculty at The University of Chicago in 2015 as an Assistant Professor of Psychology. Broadly he is interested in how human beings navigate the complex social world by tracking each others’ reputations and by signaling to others. More specifically, he studies fairness, intellectual property, and reputation and how these things develop throughout childhood. Previously he was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at Yale University.

Amanda Woodward, Ph.D

William S. Gray Professor of Psychology

Dean, Division of the Social Sciences

Infant Learning and Development Lab 

Amanda Woodward is the William S. Gray Professor of Psychology and Dean of the Division of Social Sciences. She was a founding member of the Center for Early Childhood Research. She completed her undergraduate degree at Swarthmore College in 1987 and her doctoral degree at Stanford University in 1992.  She joined the faculty at the University of Chicago in 1993.

Woodward has pioneered the development of experimental methods to investigate social cognition in infants and young children. Her research has yielded fundamental insights into infants’ social understanding and the processes that support conceptual development early in life. Woodward’s research has been recognized by a number of awards, including the Ann L. Brown Award for Excellence in Developmental Research, the APA Boyd McCandless Award for an Early Career Contribution to Developmental Psychology and the John Merck Scholars Award. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Association for Psychological Science and the American Psychological Association, and served as President of the Cognitive Development Society from 2013-2015.

Fan Yang, Ph.D

Research Assistant Professor of Psychology

Human Nature and Potentials Laboratory 

Dr. Fan Yang is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. Fan is broadly interested in the psychological tendencies that enable us to grow and transcend ourselves. She studies self-transcendent thinking and values in terms of morality and emotion (happiness and meaning). Fan completed her PhD in developmental psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Fan was a post-doctoral associate at Yale University and received a master’s degree from Harvard University.