Sandra Waxman Professor

Program Area(s):



Language and conceptual development in infants and children; Cognitive development across languages and cultures

Research Interests

Language and conceptual development in infancy and early childhood; cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspectives; early acquisition of concepts, words, and inductive reasoning.

Linking Early Linguistic and Conceptual Development - Our research considers the acquisition of two fundamental human capacities -- conceptual development and language development -- and the relation between them in infants and toddlers. We consider the development of these capacities throughout the first two years of life, beginning with infants who have not even begun to speak. Adopting a cross-linguistic developmental perspective, our research involves infants and young children acquiring a range of different languages, including English, Mandarin, Korean, Spanish, French and Italian.

Living and Learning in Relationships - The overall purpose of this project is to examine the role of culture and associated epistemological orientations in the development of knowledge and reasoning about the natural world, in both Native American and non-Native communities.  Our earlier work has shown that cultural differences in conceptions of human-nature relations manifest not only in explicit knowledge and values, but also implicitly in practices.  Our project employs an integration of multiple methods and measures in order to conduct: 1. studies of input conditions and learning in everyday contexts, 2. more formal cognitive science studies of learning and conceptual organization and 3. community-based design experiments focused on preschool science learning.

This project is a collaborative effort between the University of Washington and the American Indian Center of Chicago (Megan Bang), the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin (Karen Washinawatok), and Northwestern University (Sandra Waxman and Doug Medin).

Selected Recent Publications

Ferry, A., Hespos, S., Waxman, S. (2013). Non-human primate vocalizations support categorization in very young human infants. PNAS,110(38), 15231–15235.

Dehghani, M., Bang, M., Medin, D.L., Marin, A., Leddon, E., Waxman, S. (2013). Epistemologies in the Text of Children’s Books: Native and Non-Native Authored Books. International Journal of Science Education, 35(13), 2133-2151.

Arunachalam, S. Leddon, E., Song, H., Lee, Y., & Waxman, S. R. (2013). Doing more with less: Verb learning in Korean-acquiring 24-month-olds. Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics, 20(4), 292-304, DOI: 10.1080/10489223.2013.828059.

Waxman, S. Fu, X., Arunachalam, S. Leddon, E. & Geraghty, K. (2013). Nouns before verbs? Fresh insights and new cross-linguistic evidence. Child Development Perspectives. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/cdep.12032.

Waxman, S.R. (2013). Building a Better Bridge. In M. Banaji, S. Gelman & S. Lehr (Eds.), Navigating the Social World: The Early Years.  Oxford University Press.

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