Biological reasoning

Like mother, like daughter: Adults’ judgments about genetic inheritance

We investigated adults’ reasoning about genetic inheritance. We found that adults have a fairly good understanding of how genetic inheritance works, but they reliably have two misunderstandings. The first one is that if the two parents have the same eye color (let's say dark brown) they think that it is more likely for the offspring to have a similar color (dark orange) than a different color (green). The second one is that they think that if the parents have different eye colors, they think that female offspring are more likely to resemble the mother and male offspring are more likely to resemble the father.

Detailed bugs or bugging details? The influence of perceptual richness across elementary school years

We examined whether the perceptual richness of a diagram influences children's learning and transfer of knowledge about metamorphosis. First and second graders who saw the rich diagram during the lesson learned more than those who saw the bland diagram during the lesson. Fourth and fifth graders who saw the bland diagram during the lesson incorrectly transferred more than those who saw the rich diagram during the lesson.

“When will it be over?” U.S. children’s questions and parents’ responses about the COVID-19 pandemic

We asked parents to report the questions that their children asked the about the COVID-19 pandemic and how they responded. We found that children were more likely to ask questions about lifestyle changes, rather than about the virus. Parents often answered these questions and provided realistic explanations. Parents often discussed changes in social norms, their social responsibility to stop the spread of the virus, and tried to comfort their child. Thus, parent-child conversations about the pandemic might influence how children think about illness and social norm, and children's coping skills.

Capturing death in animated films: Can films stimulate parent-child conversations about death?

We examined the type of death information in children's films and parent- child conversations. We found that children's animated films contained a lot of biologically accurate information about death, however many of the deaths were implied and not explicitly shown. Children asked a lot of question about death in films, and these questions resemble their questions about death in other settings.

Evaluating and communicating about the healthiness of foods: Predictors of parents' judgments and parent-child conversations

We investigated how parents make decisions about the healthiness of foods when presented with different representations of the same nutritional information. Providing parents with nutritional information did not influence their ratings of how healthy food items are. Parents reported talking with their children about nutrition, believed they are the best source of information for children about nutrition, and believed their nutrition beliefs influence their children's beliefs.

Representing variability: The case of life cycle diagrams

We examined the diagrams found in biology books and online to see if their design alligned with research-based practices. We found that many diagrams had perceptually rich backgrounds, which prior research suggests might hinder learning.

Children's emerging understanding of death

We review research on children's understanding of death. In particular we examine how children learn about death by talking with parents, consuming media, and participating in cultural rituals.

Do details bug you? Effects of perceptual richness in learning about biological change

We examined whether the perceptual richness of a diagram influences adults' learning and transfer of knowledge about metamorphosis. Adults who saw the bland diagram during the lesson accurately transferred more than adults who saw the rich diagram during the lesson.

Reframing mental illness: The role of essentialism on perceived treatment efficacy and stigmatization

We examine how the framing around mental illness influenced how people thought about them. Describing mental illness with an essentialist framing led adult to think drug treatments (but not talk therapy) would be more effective.

Embracing Death: Mexican Parent and Child Perspectives on Death

We used a mixed-method approach to explore parent and child perspectives on death in Puebla, Mexico. While all children in this sample displayed a biological understanding of death, they also combined this knowledge with spiritual information.