Dr. Caren Walker, Principal Investigator

click here for a link to full CV


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.  


academic POsitions

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

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 publications / click here for a link to full publications

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

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

Walker, C.M., Gopnik, A., & Ganea, P.A. (2014). Learning to learn from stories: Children’s developing sensitivity to the causal structure of fictional worlds. Child Development, 86(1): 310-318. [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.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]