Infant Language and Learning Lab


Jenny Saffran, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jenny Saffran was Dr. Thiessen's adviser during his time as a graduate student. Her research focuses on the kinds of learning abilities required to master the complexities of language. Three broad issues characterize Dr. Saffran's work. One line of research asks what kinds of learning emerge in infancy. A second line of research probes the biases that shape human learning abilities, and the relationship between these biases and the structure of human languages. A third issue concerns the extent to which the learning abilities underlying this process are specifically tailored for language acquisition. Related research concerns infant music perception, and the relationship between music and language learning.

Katharine Graf-Estes, University of California - Davis
Katharine Graf-Estes is an assistant professor of psychology at UC Davis. Dr. Graf-Estes' research explores the mechanisms that support early learning. In particular, the ability to detect statistical regularities may play a fundamental role in how infants learn about a highly complex, highly salient aspect of the auditory world: language. Infants become especially attuned to regularities in the sound patterns of the ambient language, including its phoneme distinctions, sound combinations within words, and its cues to word boundaries in fluent speech. Thus, when infants begin to understand and produce words, they do not start as a blank slate.

Michael Kaschak, Florida State University
Mike Kaschak is an associate professor at Florida State University, and was Dr. Thiessen's graduate mentor at Wisconsin before moving on to warmer territory. Dr. Kaschak is interested in the role of perception and action planning in language comprehension. In addition, he is broadly interested in the role of learning and adaptation in in both language comprehension and language production.

Luca Onnis, Nanyang Technological University
Luca Onnis is an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University and director of LEAP Lab. Dr. Onnis is interested in bridging cognitive science and language learning/teaching. He conducts research combining computational and behavioral methods in order to understand the basic mechanisms of language learning. Theoretically and empirically motivated predictions can then be made to help improve language learning and teaching.

Anna Fisher, Carnegie Mellon University
Anna Fisher is the director of the Cognitive Development Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. Anna studies how young children learn and how they generalize knowledge. Generalization in humans is unique in many ways. For example, only humans exhibit evidence of the ability to organize categories into multiple levels of abstraction, create ad-hoc categories, establish arbitrary groupings, or engage in higher-order reasoning. Anna's research explores the development of uniquely human modes of learning and interference, with a particular focus on the development of category-based inductive reasoning. A related line of research explores the relationship between sustained attention and learning. Ultimately, this line of research seeks to apply insights from developmental cognitive psychology to improve children's learning in academic settings.

Philip Pavlik, University of Memphis
Dr. Pavlik completed his dissertation at Carnegie Mellon University, and has an appointment as part of the Interdisciplinary Institute for Intelligent Systems, and is director of the Optimal Learning Lab. The OLL works to identify models of human learning so that these models can be used by instruction software (such as artificially intelligent tutors) to sequence and schedule practice for best learning outcomes.