Psychology professor elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Rene Baillargeon, the University of Illinois Alumni Distinguished Professor of Psychology, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She and the other 226 newly elected fellows will be honored at the annual Induction Ceremony on Oct. 6 at academy headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

Other new members this year include former Vice President Al Gore; former Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day OConnor; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt; astronomer Donald Brownlee; and filmmaker Spike Lee.

Baillargeon is the director of the U. of I. Infant Cognition lab, where she studies infants physical reasoning (their ability to make sense of the placement, displacement and interrelation of objects) and psychological reasoning (their ability to make sense of others actions and interactions). Her work on infants physical reasoning has challenged previous theories of infant development by demonstrating that even very young infants are able to differentiate events that are physically possible from those that appear to be physically impossible.

Her work on psychological reasoning also shows that an infants ability to reason about how others will behave is more sophisticated than previously thought. In a 2005 study published in the journal Science, former student Kris Onishi and Baillargeon reported that infants as young as 15 months of age were able to predict how an adult actor would behave in a situation that involved moving an object from one hiding place to another.

If the adult actor saw the object being moved from one box to another, the researchers reported, the infant expected the adult to look for the object in its actual hiding place. If the object was moved while the adult was out of the room, the infant expected the adult to look for the object in its previous location. The infants expectations were demonstrated by the amount of time it spent staring at the staged eve

Contact: Diana Yates
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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