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
Renee Baillargeon's laboratory studies infants' physical, psychological, biological, and sociomoral reasoning. In each domain, they seek to uncover the skeletal framework of principles and concepts that guides reasoning and learning. In the physical domain, they have shown that a persistence principle enables infants to realize, from a very early age, that objects continue to exist when hidden. Infants' skeletal framework also guides their acquisition of physical knowledge, via an explanation-based learning process: Infants learn about simple events by identifying the features that are causally relevant for predicting how the events will unfold. In the psychological domain, Baillargeon's laboratory has shown 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 self-propelled and agentive entities as animals and, in accordance with an "innards" principle, expect them to have filled insides. Finally, their experiments in the sociomoral domain have revealed that infants possess an equity-based sense of fairness; current research explores how this and other sociomoral principles interact to guide infants' expectations about social interactions.

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