Alison Gopnik, Professor

Closed (1) Cognitive Development and Artificial Intelligence

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are entering a new era where they are all being based on famous child dev. experiments. We will be working with faculty/students over in BAIR (Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research) on:

1. Designing maze like games for kids to play on the computer that allow us to test the curiosity and exploration limits of children and AI! See here for more info: https://pathak22.github.io/noreward-rl/

2. Working with faculty at MIT and NYU and furthering work done here: (https://web.mit.edu/cocosci/Papers/Science-2015-Lake-1332-8.pdf). We are curious to see how machine learning can inform us about children's abilities to learn how to write and recognize letters.

We are looking for 2 dedicated and motivated undergraduate students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in developmental psychology or a related field. Prior research experience is appreciated though not required. Prior experience working with children is essential. RAs will work closely with a graduate student assisting them on all aspects of the research process. RAs will help with experimental and stimuli design, recruiting participants 4-8 years old and adults, collecting data, analyzing data, and literature reviews. RAs will meet regularly with their mentors to discuss the theoretical motivations of the studies they are working on as well as the findings of other empirical papers both related to the studies in the lab and important to the field in general. We ask our RAs to work for a minimum of 10 hours per week and prefer a 2-semester commitment if possible.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Eliza Kosoy, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Qualifications: Must be organized, self-motivated, and an independent, hard worker! Prior experience with children is required (both formal and informal experience is great). Must be excited about Cognitive Development as well as artificial intelligence research! Prior research experience is not required (though it is a plus). Comfort acting silly around children is needed (a bit of acting or improv experience is helpful but not essential). Artistic, mechanical, electrical engineering or programming experience is not necessary, but would be great! We're always building new toys for our experiments. You need to have blocks of 3-4 hours regularly open in your schedule, particularly between the hours of 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm for conducting research at the local preschools. Morning times are generally better than afternoons. Weekend availability is also great (we run experiments at the Lawrence Hall of Science and other museums during the weekend). PLEASE LIST YOUR AVAILABLE DAYS AND HOURS IN YOUR APPLICATION. A car is not necessary, but please mention if you have a car. Please apply through URAP AND through this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSchNdmzaowHoG4-5iNdmLL59ISICvd3RDgPgGmERQiJAOd5HA/viewform?usp=sf_link. Only apply on this website for the purposes of obtaining URAP credits. You do not need to fill out the URAP application to its full extent, just enough to be able to submit it in this portal.

Weekly Hours: 9-11 hrs

Related website: http://www.gopniklab.berkeley.edu/for-applying/
Related website: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSchNdmzaowHoG4-5iNdmLL59ISICvd3RDgPgGmERQiJAOd5HA/viewform?usp=sf_link

Closed (2) Cognitive Development Research on Causal Reasoning, Relational Understanding, Imitation, and Imaginative Play

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Research in the Gopnik Cognitive Development Lab is broadly focused on children's development of cause and effect reasoning. Within this framework, we are currently looking for research assistants to help with the projects listed below.

The first project is part of ongoing research on how children learn cause and effect relationships from observing others actions. How do they decide which actions lead to which outcomes? How do they decide which of those actions to imitate in order to bring about an effect?

The second project investigates how children use different types of evidence to form theories about causal relationships. How do children build theories about the world around them and what evidence causes them to revise these theories? How do children simultaneously form theories that explain the relationships between concepts and the concepts that make up those theories?


We are looking for dedicated and motivated undergraduate students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in developmental psychology or a related field. Prior research experience is appreciated though not required. Prior experience working with children is essential. RAs will work closely with a graduate student assisting them on all aspects of the research process. RAs will help with experimental and stimuli design, recruiting participants 1-6 years old and adults, collecting data, analyzing data, and literature reviews. RAs will meet regularly with their mentors to discuss the theoretical motivations of the studies they are working on as well as the findings of other empirical papers both related to the studies in the lab and important to the field in general. We ask our RAs to work for a minimum of 8-10 hours per week and prefer a 2-semester commitment if possible, though we are flexible.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Katie Kimura, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Must be organized, self-motivated, and an independent, hard worker! Prior experience with children is required (both formal and informal experience is great). Must be excited about Cognitive Development research! Prior research experience is not required (though it is a plus). Comfort acting silly around children is needed (a bit of acting or improv experience is helpful but not essential). Artistic, mechanical, electrical engineering or programming experience is not necessary, but would be great! We're always building new toys for our experiments. You need to have blocks of 3-4 hours regularly open in your schedule, particularly between the hours of 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm for conducting research at the local preschools. Morning times are generally better than afternoons. Weekend availability is also great (we run experiments at the Lawrence Hall of Science and other museums during the weekend). PLEASE LIST YOUR AVAILABLE DAYS AND HOURS IN YOUR APPLICATION. A car is not necessary, but please mention if you have a car. Please apply through URAP AND on this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSchNdmzaowHoG4-5iNdmLL59ISICvd3RDgPgGmERQiJAOd5HA/viewform Only apply on this website for the purposes of obtaining URAP credits. You do not need to fill out the URAP application to its full extent, just enough to be able to submit it in this portal.

Weekly Hours: 9-11 hrs

Related website: http://www.gopniklab.berkeley.edu/for-applying/
Related website: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSchNdmzaowHoG4-5iNdmLL59ISICvd3RDgPgGmERQiJAOd5HA/viewform

Closed (3) Causal Attribution or Understanding Metaphors in Causal Contexts

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Research in the Gopnik Cognitive Development Lab is broadly focused on children's development of cause and effect reasoning. Within this framework, we are currently looking for research assistants to help with the projects listed below.

In one study we are interested in understanding how children's knowledge of gender stereotypes influences their explanations for another person's behavior. In one task your child will sort various activities into bins based on gender. In a second task, they will be presented with different scenarios in which male and female dolls play on some toys and avoid other toys and the child will be asked to explain the dolls' behaviors.

Another study looks at preschoolers' understanding of metaphors in causal contexts. Previous research shows that preschoolers have a tricky time understanding metaphors (i.e. “a cloud is a sponge”; “her perfume was bright sunshine”) because they prefer literal language and struggle to think about deeper conceptual relations between objects. However, recent research from the Gopnik lab also shows that framing objects in a causal context facilitates relational reasoning in preschoolers. Thus, in the current study, we explore whether a causal context can also facilitate metaphor comprehension in young children. Children play an interactive computer game in which they predict what an object will turn into, and then make judgments about whether metaphors and nonsense statements are smart or silly.

We are looking for dedicated and motivated undergraduate students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in developmental psychology or a related field. Prior research experience is appreciated though not required. Prior experience working with children is essential. RAs will work closely with a graduate student assisting them on all aspects of the research process. RAs will help with experimental and stimuli design, recruiting participants 3-14 years olds and adults, collecting data, analyzing data, and literature reviews. RAs will meet regularly with their mentors to discuss the theoretical motivations of the studies they are working on as well as the findings of other empirical papers both related to the studies in the lab and important to the field in general. We ask our RAs to work for a minimum of 8-10 hours per week and prefer a 2-semester commitment if possible.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Shaun O'Grady OR Rebecca Zhu, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Qualifications: Must be organized, self-motivated, and an independent, hard worker! Prior experience with children is required (both formal and informal experience is great). Must be excited about Cognitive Development as well as artificial intelligence research! Prior research experience is not required (though it is a plus). Comfort acting silly around children is needed (a bit of acting or improv experience is helpful but not essential). Artistic, mechanical, electrical engineering or programming experience is not necessary, but would be great! We're always building new toys for our experiments. You need to have blocks of 3-4 hours regularly open in your schedule, particularly between the hours of 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm for conducting research at the local preschools. Morning times are generally better than afternoons. Weekend availability is also great (we run experiments at the Lawrence Hall of Science and other museums during the weekend). PLEASE LIST YOUR AVAILABLE DAYS AND HOURS IN YOUR APPLICATION. A car is not necessary, but please mention if you have a car. Please apply through URAP AND through this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSchNdmzaowHoG4-5iNdmLL59ISICvd3RDgPgGmERQiJAOd5HA/viewform Only apply on this website for the purposes of obtaining URAP credits. You do not need to fill out the URAP application to its full extent, just enough to be able to submit it in this portal.

Weekly Hours: 9-11 hrs

Related website: http://www.gopniklab.berkeley.edu/for-applying/
Related website: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSchNdmzaowHoG4-5iNdmLL59ISICvd3RDgPgGmERQiJAOd5HA/viewform

Closed (4) Exploratory Decision-Making Across Development or Counterfactual Reasoning and Pretend Play

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Research in the Gopnik Cognitive Development Lab is broadly focused on children's development of cause and effect reasoning. Within this framework, we are currently looking for research assistants to help with the projects listed below.

1. Conventional wisdom holds that children are “more curious” than adults. However, we know very little about how children decide to explore the world around them. This project is part of ongoing research on how children reason about potential information when making the decision to explore. Are children sensitive to different qualities of the potential information to be gained (e.g., how easy it is to learn, how useful it is, how likely it is to lead to reward), and how does this change their exploration? How does this exploratory decision-making change across development?

2. Is there a relationship between hypothetical reasoning and pretend play in preschool aged children? The virtual universality of pretend play among children suggests it is important for development. Perhaps pretend play could be helping develop children’s ability to reason counterfactually, a skill which is important in planning and decision making. In this game, children are introduced to a stuffed animal monkey and must figure out how to turn on a machine that plays Happy Birthday music to surprise the monkey. Children are asked counterfactual questions about how to turn on the machine and later they use a pretend machine instead of the real one to imagine they are surprising the monkey. Based on previous research, children who are able to answer the counterfactual questions correctly will also be able to more easily imagine using the pretend machine instead of the real one, suggesting that there is a relationship between the two types of thought. We now extend this research to different populations of children, including cross-cultural and cross-SES samples.

We are looking for dedicated and motivated undergraduate students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in developmental psychology or a related field. Prior research experience is appreciated though not required. Prior experience working with children is essential. RAs will work closely with a graduate student assisting them on all aspects of the research process. RAs will help with experimental and stimuli design, recruiting participants 3-8 years old and adults, collecting data, analyzing data, and literature reviews. RAs will meet regularly with their mentors to discuss the theoretical motivations of the studies they are working on as well as the findings of other empirical papers both related to the studies in the lab and important to the field in general. We ask our RAs to work for a minimum of 6-10 hours per week and prefer a 2-semester commitment if possible.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Teresa Garcia, Lab Manager OR Emily Liquin , Graduate Student

Qualifications: Must be organized, self-motivated, and an independent, hard worker! Prior experience with children is required (both formal and informal experience is great). Must be excited about Cognitive Development research! Prior research experience is not required (though it is a plus). Comfort acting silly around children is needed (a bit of acting or improv experience is helpful but not essential). Artistic, mechanical, electrical engineering or programming experience is not necessary, but would be great! We're always building new toys for our experiments. You need to have blocks of hours available on the weekend (we run experiments at the Lawrence Hall of Science and other museums during the weekend). If you do not have weekend availability, you must have blocks of 3-4 hours regularly open in your schedule during the week, particularly between the hours of 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm, for conducting research at the local preschools. Morning times are generally better than afternoons. PLEASE LIST YOUR AVAILABLE DAYS AND HOURS IN YOUR APPLICATION. A car is not necessary, but please mention if you have a car. Please apply through URAP AND on this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSchNdmzaowHoG4-5iNdmLL59ISICvd3RDgPgGmERQiJAOd5HA/viewform Only apply on this website for the purposes of obtaining URAP credits. You do not need to fill out the URAP application to its full extent, just enough to be able to submit it in this portal.

Weekly Hours: 9-11 hrs

Related website: http://www.gopniklab.berkeley.edu/for-applying/
Related website: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSchNdmzaowHoG4-5iNdmLL59ISICvd3RDgPgGmERQiJAOd5HA/viewform