Caren Walker

Assistant Professor

My research explores how children learn and reason about the causal structure of the world. In particular, I am interested in how even very young learners are able to acquire abstract representations that extend beyond their observations, simply by thinking. How is “learning by thinking” possible? What does this phenomenon tell us about the nature of early mental representations and how they change? To begin to answer these questions, my work has focused on a suite of activities that impose top-down constraints on human inference, focusing on phenomena that are characteristic of learning in early childhood. My current research includes learning by analogy, by explanation, and by engagement in imaginary worlds. My approach is interdisciplinary, combining perspectives in psychology, philosophy, education, and computational theory.

  • Walker, C.M. & Gopnik, A. (2014). Toddlers infer higher-order relational principles in causal learning. Psychological Science, 25(1): 161-169.
  • Walker, C.M., Lombrozo, T., Legare, C.H., & Gopnik, A. (2014). Explaining prompts children to privilege inductively rich properties. Cognition, 133, 343-357.
  • Walker, C.M., Gopnik, A., & Ganea, P.A. (2014). Learning to learn from stories: Children’s developing sensitivity to the causal structure of fictional worlds. Child Development, 86(1): 310-318.
  • Walker, C.M. & Gopnik, A. (2013). Causality & Imagination. In Marjorie Taylor (Ed.), The development of imagination (pp. 342-358). Oxford University Press: New York.
  • Walker, C.M., Wartenberg, T.E., & Winner, E. (2013). Engagement in philosophical dialogue facilitates children’s reasoning about subjectivity. Developmental Psychology, 49(7): 1338-1347.
  • Walker, C.M., Walker, L., Ganea, P. (2013). The role of symbol-based experience in learning and transfer from pictures: Evidence from Tanzania. Developmental Psychology, 49(7): 1315-1324.