University of Wisconsin–Madison

Current Research Projects

Children’s Drawing & Spatial Reasoning

This project involves the implementation of a motor intervention to improve spatial reasoning in young children (3.5-5 years old). First, we are hoping to adapt current tests of spatial ability, such as mental rotation and mental paper folding tasks, that have been used on older children and adults to better suit younger children. After we have developed these measures, we will apply the intervention in a classroom setting. It will involve children gradually learning how to draw in 3 dimensions in a drawing-based intervention or how to fold paper into certain items in an origami-based intervention. We hope to improve their motor skills alongside spatial reasoning skills, as they have been shown to be linked abilities in a variety of previous studies.

Health & Illness

This line of research looks at how people conceptualize health and illness. We are exploring how focusing on promoting health or preventing illness can lead to different health outcomes. We are also interested in how an acute threat of illness could effect a person’s behaviors. If there is an immediate threat around you, for example a person with the flu, will you be more likely to take precautions, such as washing your hands. Finally, we are exploring how parents transmit information about health and illness to their children and how this might differ by culture.

Action & Media Errors

Action errors refer to times when a child attempts to perform a task on an object that does not allow for its successful completion. Past research has documented two types of errors; scale and grasping. An example of a scale error is when a child tries to fit themselves into a toy car, far too small for their bodies.  An example of a grasping error is when a child tries to grab grapes from a photograph. This study has decided to expand on the errors by looking at a category we call media errors.  An example of a media error would be a child trying to physically interact with someone over video chat.  It is believed that the children may be performing these errors due to the inability to properly represent themselves in their environment.  To study the errors, parents fill out parental diaries, documenting family demographics, the child’s development and errors they witness their child perform.  This year we are wrapping up the current parental diaries study and will be launching an online version of the survey in the next few months.

Diagrams in Biology

This research analyzes one’s understanding of biological change. The participants are shown a diagram that represents biological change in a ladybug in addition to reading a passage regarding biological variation. We are investigating whether different diagrams lead to better learning and generalization in the biological domain.