Laura Hennefield » social cognitive developmental researcher, educator

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How does learning occur in social contexts? What kinds of information do we learn from others, and from whom do we learn? And what affects our motivation to learn from others?

My research investigates these fundamental questions in children at a time when they are rapidly – and seemingly effortlessly – acquiring extensive information about the world around them. My current projects focus on how other children’s preferences influence preschoolers’ own choices and values of options. I am also interested in how children characterize different types of information (e.g., facts vs opinions), and social influences on children’s friendship choices.

The experimental research I conduct lends itself quite well to training undergraduate students. Throughout my graduate career, I have trained 4-8 undergraduates each year on all aspects of the and research process. Through my projects, motivated students quickly learn basic developmental research skills, such as how to present stimuli to infants and young children, and participate directly in data collection while they acquire more complex skills (e.g., coding analyzing data, disseminating findings, designing new studies). More advanced students have the opportunity to become affiliated with a specific research project, take on additional responsibilities, and eventually conduct their own study if they are inclined. I strive to impress upon students the importance of asking meaningful scientific questions with testable hypotheses, and greatly enjoy helping students develop their own research questions.


Psychology in the Classroom

My interests in how we learn extend to the classroom, where I regularly incorporate empirical findings from learning and memory into my courses. When I taught Introduction to Psychology this past summer, I found that all students benefitted greatly from an early emphasis on the science behind effective learning and study strategies, and this material helped bridge the gap between the under-prepared and more advanced students. I also created a variety of short writing assignments designed to engage students with the materials and to facilitate discussions. These assignments included writing brief reactions to readings, devising counterarguments to an issue of debate, and linking concepts to personal experiences.

Introduction to Psychology Course Documents: Syllabus, Extra Credit AssignmentWriting Assignments

As a teaching assistant for Research Methods, I have had the opportunity to teach students how to systematically work through each component of study design and methodology, which I find immensely rewarding. I also enjoy working with students to develop their scientific writing skills. To that end, I teach students about the differences between expository and scientific writing, and provide detailed feedback on multiple drafts of early writing assignments to prepare them to undertake their own independent projects.
     Teaching Capabilities/Interests
Introduction to Psychology
Research Methods
Advanced Writing Seminar
Cognitive Psychology
Language and Thought
Social Cognitive Development
Developmental Psychology
Adolescent Psychology
Social Psychology






Prasada, S., Hennefield, L., & Otap, D. (2012). Conceptual and linguistic representations of kinds and classes. Cognitive Science, 36, 1224-1250. (pdf)

Manuscripts Under Review

Hennefield, L. & Markson, L. If you don’t want it neither do I: Social influences on children’s choices. Manuscript submitted for publication.