Dr. Caren Walker, Principal Investigator

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CONTACT INFORMATION

University of California, San Diego
Department of Psychology
4328 McGill Hall, La Jolla, CA 92023-0109
Email: carenwalker@ucsd.edu
Phone: (858) 246-2434

 

REsearch Interests

My research explores how children learn and reason about the causal structure of the world. In particular, I am interested in how even very young learners are able to acquire abstract representations that extend beyond their observations, simply by thinking. How is "learning by thinking" possible? What does this phenomenon tell us about the nature of early mental representations and how they change? To begin to answer these questions, we must isolate the contributions of our observations from the mechanisms that underlie learning. To this end, my work to date has focused on a suite of activities that impose top-down constraints on human inference, focusing on phenomena that are characteristic of learning in early childhood. My current research includes learning by analogy, by explanation, and by engagement in imaginary worlds.  My work is interdisciplinary, combining perspectives in psychology, philosophy, education, and computational theory.  

 

education & Employment

Assistant Professor of Psychology, UC San Diego, 2015 to present
Ph.D. in Psychology, UC Berkeley, 2015
M.A. in Psychology, Boston College, 2010
M.A. in the Social Sciences (History & Philosophy of Science), University of Chicago, 2007
B.A. in Psychology & B.A. in Philosophy, Boston University, 2003

 

PUBLICATIONS

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Wente, A.O., Kimura, K., Walker, C.M., Banerjee, N., Flecha F., MacDonald, B., Lucas, C., & Gopnik, A. (In press). Causal learning across culture and socioeconomic status. To appear inChild Development. [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Bonawitz, E., & Lombrozo, T. (2017). Effects of explaining on children's preference for simpler hypotheses. Invited paper for Special Issue: The process of explanation in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. doi: 10.3758/s13423-016-1144-0. [pdf]

Walker, C.M. & Gopnik, A. (2017). Discriminating relational and perceptual judgments: Evidence from human toddlers. Cognition, 166, 23-37. [pdf]

Walker, C.M. & Lombrozo, T. (2017). Explaining the moral story. Invited paper for Special Issue: Moral Learning in Cognition, 167, 266-281. [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Bridgers, S., & Gopnik, A. (2016). The early emergence and puzzling decline of relational reasoning: Effects of knowledge and search on inferring abstract concepts. Cognition156, 30-40. [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Lombrozo, T., Williams, J. J., Rafferty, A., & Gopnik, A. (2016). Explaining constrains causal learning in childhood. Child Development, 88, 229-246. [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Lombrozo, T., Legare, C., & Gopnik, A. (2014).  Explanation prompts children to privilege inductively rich properties. Cognition, 133, 343-357.  [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Gopnik, A., & Ganea, P. (2014).  Learning to learn from stories: Children's developing sensitivity to the causal structure of fictional words. Child Development, 86, 310-318. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12287.  [pdf]

Walker, C.M. & Gopnik, A. (2014).  Toddlers infer higher-order relational principles in causal learning.  Psychological Science, 25(1): 161-169. [pdf]

Gopnik, A.* & Walker, C.M.* (2013).  Considering counterfactuals: The relationship between causal learning and pretend play.  American Journal of Play (Special Issue), 6(1): 15-28.  [pdf]

Walker, C.M. & Gopnik, A. (2013).  Pretense and Possibility: A theoretical proposal about the effects of pretend play on development: Comment on Lillard, Lerner, Hopkins, Dore, Smith & Palmquist (2013).  Psychological Bulletin, 139(1): 40-44.  [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Wartenberg, T.E., & Winner, E. (2013).  Engagement in philosophical dialogue facilitates children's reasoning about subjectivity.  Developmental Psychology, 49(7): 1338-1347.  [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Walker, L., & Ganea, P. (2013).  The role of symbol-based experience in learning and transfer from pictures: Evidence from Tanzania.  Developmental Psychology, 49(7): 1315-1324. [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Winner, E., Hetland, L., Simmons, S., & Goldman, L. (2011).  Visual thinking: Art students have an advantage in geometric reasoning.  Creative Education, 2(1): 22-26. [pdf]

Zaitchik, D., Walker, C.M., Miller, S., LaViolette, P., Feczko, E., & Dickerson B.C. (2010).  Mental state attribution and the temporoparietal junction: An fMRI study comparing belief, emotion, and perception.  Neuropsychologia, 48(9): 2528-2536. [pdf]

Book Chapters

Hadani, H. & Walker, C.M. (2016).  Research and museum partnerships: Key components of successful collaboration.  In Jennifer Jipson & Dave Sobel (Eds.), Relating research and practice: Cognitive development in museum settings.  Psychology Press, pp. 171-180.  [pdf]

Walker, C.M. & Gopnik, A. (2013).  Causality & Imagination.  In Marjorie Taylor (Ed.), The development of imagination (pp. 342-358).  Oxford University Press: New York.  [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Wartenberg, T., & Winner, E. (2012).  Examining the effects of philosophy classes on the early development of argumentation skills.  In S. Goering, N. Shudak, & T. Wartenberg (Eds.), Philosophy in schools: An introductory handbook for philosophers and teachers, (pp. 277-282).  Routledge Press: New York.  [pdf]

Peer-Reviewed Published Proceedings

Carstensen, A. & Walker, C.M. (2017). The paradox of relational development is not universal: Abstract reasoning develops differently across cultures. In G. Gunzelmann, A. Howes, T. Tenbrink, & E. Davelaar (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference Cognitive Science Society, pp. 1721-1726. London, UK: Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Walker, C.M. & Gopnik, A. (2017). More than meets the eye: Early relational reasoning cannot be reduced to perceptual heuristics. In G. Gunzelmann, A. Howes, T. Tenbrink, & E. Davelaar (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pp. 1302-1306. London, UK: cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Bridgers, S.B., & Gopnik, A. (2015).  The early emergence and puzzling decline of relational reasoning: Effects of knowledge and search on inferring “same” and “different.”  In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pp. 2559-2564.  Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Williams, J.J., Kovacs, G., Walker, C.M., Maldonado, S.G., & Lombrozo, T. (2014).  Learning online via prompts to explain.  In ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.  New York, NY: Association for Computing Machinery.  [pdf]

Buchsbaum, D., Walker, C.M., & Gopnik, A. (2013).  Complex causal reasoning in pretend play.  In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pp. 69-70.  Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Lombrozo, T., Legare, C., & Gopnik, A. (2013).  Explaining to others prompts children to favor inductively rich properties.  In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R.P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pp. 1558-1563.  Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Walker, C.M. & Gopnik, A. (2013).  24-month-old infants engage in relational causal reasoning.  In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R.P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pp. 1564-1568.  Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Williams, J.J., Walker, C.M., Maldonado, S.G., Lombrozo, T. (2013).  Effects of explaining anomalies on the generation and evaluation of hypotheses.  In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pp. 3777-3782.  Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Ganea, P.A., & Gopnik, A. (2012).  Children's causal learning from fiction: Assessing the proximity between real and fictional worlds.  In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pp. 1108-1113.  Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Williams, J.J., Lombrozo, T., & Gopnik, A. (2012).  Explaining influences children's reliance on evidence and prior knowledge in causal induction.  In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, pp. 1114-1119.  Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.  [pdf]

Book Chapters

Hadani, H. & Walker, C.M. (2016).  Research and museum partnerships: Key components of successful collaboration.  In Jennifer Jipson & Dave Sobel (Eds.), Relating research and practice: Cognitive development in museum settings.  Psychology Press, pp. 171-180.  [pdf]

Walker, C.M. & Gopnik, A. (2013).  Causality & Imagination.  In Marjorie Taylor (Ed.), The development of imagination (pp. 342-358).  Oxford University Press: New York.  [pdf]

Walker, C.M., Wartenberg, T., & Winner, E. (2012).  Examining the effects of philosophy classes on the early development of argumentation skills.  In S. Goering, N. Shudak, & T. Wartenberg (Eds.), Philosophy in schools: An introductory handbook for philosophers and teachers, (pp. 277-282).  Routledge Press: New York.  [pdf]

Papers Under Review

Walker, C.M., Hubachek, S.Q., & Vendetti, M. (under review) Achieving abstraction: Generating “far” analogies promotes relational reasoning in children.

Manuscripts in preparation

Walker, C.M., Lombrozo, T., & Gopnik, A. (in prep.) Achieving abstraction through explanation.

Walker, C.M., Hubachek, S., & Gopnik, A. (in prep.) Language acquisition and the onset of relational reasoning.

Walker, C.M., Buchsbaum, D., Banerjee, E., & Gopnik, A. (in prep). Imagining interventions: Complex causal reasoning in pretend play.

Walker, C.M., Ganea, P.A., & Gopnik, A. (in prep.) Clap your hands if you believe: Children’s understanding of the boundary between fictional worlds and reality.

Walker, C.M., Simons-Ghafari, K., & Ganea, A. (in prep). Weighing the evidence: Conceptual change through storybooks.

Bonawitz, E., Walker, C.M., Abbott, J., Griffiths, T., & Gopnik, A. (in prep). Variability in preschoolers’ cognitive search.

Lombrozo, T. & Walker, C.M. (in prep). Learning by thinking.

Ruggeri, A., Walker, C.M., Lombrozo, T., Gopnik, A. (in prep). Question-asking in children’s causal learning.

 

fellowships and awards

Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship, 2014
National Living Laboratory Research Stipend, 2014
Varieties of Understanding Graduate Fellowship, Templeton Foundation, 2013-2014
Outstanding Undergraduate Mentoring Award, University of California, Berkeley, 2013
Society for Philosophy & Psychology Poster Prize, 2013
Lisa M. Capps Graduate Fellowship, 2012
McDonnell Foundation Causal Learning Initiative Graduate Student Researcher, 2010-2011

 

Selected media coverage

Causal learning in diverse contexts (The Wall Street Journal)

NPR covers research on explanation and narrative comprehension

NPR features research on explanation and inductive inference

The Washington Post features research on abstract reasoning

The Wall Street Journal covers research on abstract reasoning

NPR covers research on relational reasoning

Research on philosophy for children covered on podcast, "Psych Files"