Research

I'm interested in how humans think and learn, especially the dynamic interaction of solving problems and making new ones. Where do ideas come from? How do we identify and select ideas, problems, and plans that are worth pursuing? How do we make these judgments with so little evidence (in fact, we often choose goals before knowing what might happen)? I conjecture that our ability to represent, generate and evaluate problems provides a useful high-level constraint on thinking and learning. I use behavioral experiments with children and adults to characterize these abilities. 

My current work focuses on exploratory play as a context for flexible goal-setting and planning. And because play is, by definition, fun, understanding the full messiness of play allows us to gain insights on the interaction of motivation and cognition. 

Before graduate school, I studied language and concept acquisition (with David Barner at UCSD) and math learning (with Bethany Rittle-Johnson at Vanderbilt). I've been lucky to learn from some of the best mentors around. They have shaped my scientific interests and research & mentorship philosophy.

For a list of publications, see Google Scholar.