Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Baillargeon, Renee
Location University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Primary Field Psychological and Cognitive Sciences
 Election Citation
Baillargeon's elegant experiments with infants reveal remarkably early knowledge of object persistence over space and time and the causal principles governing their behavior, as well as the contrasting properties of animate objects that move with intent. These findings demonstrate the origins of human knowledge and their course of development.
 Research Interests
Renée Baillargeon's laboratory studies infants' causal reasoning in four core domains: physical, psychological, biological, and sociomoral reasoning. In each domain, they seek to uncover the skeletal framework of principles and concepts that shapes how infants reason and learn about events. In the physical domain, they have shown that principles of persistence, gravity, and inertia guide early expectations about how events will unfold. These principles also contribute to infants' acquisition of physical rules, via an explanation-based learning process. In the psychological domain, Baillargeon's laboratory has demonstrated that infants are capable of attributing to agents sophisticated mental states such as false beliefs and deceptive intentions to implant false beliefs. Infants then use these mental states, together with a principle of rationality, to predict agents' actions. In the biological domain, their research has shown that infants identify novel entities that are both self-propelled and agentive as animals and expect them to have filled insides that causally support their functioning. Finally, their experiments in the sociomoral domain have revealed that infants expect individuals to adhere to principles of fairness, harm avoidance, ingroup support, and authority; current research explores how infants evaluate immoral individuals who deviate from these principles and virtuous individuals who exceed them.

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