The Development of Optimism. It is human nature to be optimistic. Optimism, briefly defined as a cognitive bias to overestimate positive future outcomes, is adaptive and is associated with motivational, social, and health benefits in adults. Pessimism, in contrast, is maladaptive and is associated with negative outcomes including depression. Importantly, experiencing more negative life events in childhood is predictive of pessimism in adulthood. However, little is known about how optimism develops.
Are young children inherently optimistic? Do environmental and/or family factors influence early optimism? How might children integrate tendencies toward optimistic expectations with a need to learn about the true likelihood of future outcomes?
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.
Language and Thought
Hennefield, L. & Markson, L. (2015). If you don’t want it neither do I: Social influences on children’s choices. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. (pdf)
Prasada, S., Hennefield, L., & Otap, D. (2012). Conceptual and linguistic representations of kinds and classes. Cognitive Science, 36, 1224-1250. (pdf)
Manuscripts Under Revision
Luo, Y., Hennefield, L., Mou, Y., vanMarle, K., & Markson, L. Using frequency information to understand agents’ preferences at 8.5 months of age. Manuscript submitted for publication.