Renee L Baillargeon

Alumni Professor

Research Description

Dr. Baillargeon's research focuses on early causal reasoning in four core domains: physical reasoning, psychological reasoning, biological reasoning, and sociomoral reasoning. She assumes that each domain is equipped with a skeletal explanatory framework that enables infants to reason and learn about events in the domain. In her research on physical reasoning, Dr. Baillargeon examines infants' ability to predict and interpret the outcomes of physical events. Primary questions include: What expectations do infants possess at different ages about various simple physical events (e.g., occlusion, containment, and support events), and how do they attain these expectations? In her research on psychological reasoning, Dr. Baillargeon has been exploring infants' ability to predict and interpret the actions of agents. Primary questions include: Under what conditions do infants take into account the goals, dispositions, perceptions, and beliefs of agents to predict their actions? Of particular interest here is whether infants can attribute false beliefs to others, and the implications of such attributions for theory and research on the development of children's "theory of mind". In her research on biological reasoning, Dr. Baillargeon examines whether infants merely view animals as self-propelled agents, or whether they already hold biological expectations about animals. Primary questions include: Do infants expect animals to have filled insides, and do they view these insides as critical for animals’ functioning? Finally, in her research on sociomoral reasoning, Dr. Baillargeon is exploring what principles guide infants’ expectations about how individuals should act toward others. In this work, she has been focusing on the principles of fairness, harm avoidance, reciprocity, ingroup support, and authority.

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Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Additional Campus Affiliations

CAS Professor, Center for Advanced Study

Recent Publications

Dawkins, M. B., Sloane, S., & Baillargeon, R. L. (2019). Do infants in the first year of life expect equal resource allocations? Frontiers in Psychology, 10(FEB), [116].

Stavans, M., Lin, Y., Wu, D., & Baillargeon, R. L. (2019). Catastrophic individuation failures in infancy: A new model and predictions. Psychological review, 126(2), 196-225.

Stavans, M., & Baillargeon, R. L. (2019). Infants expect leaders to right wrongs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(33), 16292-16301.

Ting, F., He, Z., & Baillargeon, R. L. (2019). Toddlers and infants expect individuals to refrain from helping an ingroup victim’s aggressor. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(13), 6025-6034.

Baillargeon, R. L., Baillargeon, R., & Southgate, V. (Accepted/In press). Interpreting failed replications of early false-belief findings: Methodological and theoretical considerations. Cognitive Development.

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