How Children Make Generalizations in Language and Beyond

test involving ipad and wooden blocks

Students

2021
College

Faculty

Assistant Professor

Project Summary

The summer of 2018, I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant at the Child Language and Learning Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. I had the pleasure of working under Dr. Kathryn Schuler, a linguistics professor, on a project oriented around how children make generalizations in language and in the real world. This project was based off of Dr. Charles Yang’s Tolerance Principle, which is a mathematical formula that determines when children generalize a rule in language. The goal of this project was to observe whether or not this principle will remain true outside of language. After reading numerous studies, Dr. Schuler and I decided to model our experiment off of the infamous blicket experiments, where a causal property of an object is established. We showed subjects a number of blocks that activated a machine and then asked whether or not they believed the rest of the objects would activate the machine without testing them. Through this experience, I’ve learned to understand the struggles of conducting research. At the start of the summer, I naively assumed that Dr. Schuler and I would immediately finalize the design of the experiment and finish retrieving our data by the time by ten weeks with PURM were up; however, I quickly realized research takes years to complete. Most of my time at the lab was spent training and learning how to run subjects considering the majority of our subjects were young children, who are extremely difficult to run lengthy experiments on. The rest of the time was spent researching and refining our research project’s design. Many of my fellow research assistants weren’t even able to work on their respective projects due to how difficult designing an experiment is. I was extremely grateful to be able to work on a research project over the summer and continue working on this project through the school year at the Child Language and Learning Lab.