Lori Markson, PhD

Principal Investigator
Professor Markson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences and the director of the Cognition & Development Lab. Her research explores the cognitive mechanisms that allow children to successfully navigate the social world, with a focus on social exclusion, preferences, learning, and trust. Much of this research occurs in the context of children's understanding of different social categories, such as race, gender, nationality and language and the implications and consequences of these differences. We try to include children from a diverse range of backgrounds in our studies, enabling us to explore the effects of early experience on children's cognitive and social cognitive development. Along these lines, we are currently investigating the effects of adversity on the development of optimism and the influence of cross-race exposure on children's social choices and learning.

Laura Hennefield, PhD

Post-Doctoral Research Scholar
Laura’s research interests broadly revolve around the question of how children acquire knowledge, with an emphasis on the social and cognitive constraints and/or biases that affect the learning process. Her doctoral research broadly focused on social influences – specifically others’ preferences – on infants and young children’s own choices and evaluative judgments of options. More recently, her research focus shifted to questions concerning the development and maintenance of optimism (as a cognitive bias) in preschoolers. A core goal of her research is to elucidate how the optimism bias affects how children learn from and about the world around them, including the role of early experiences on this process.

Natasha Marrus

Physician Scientist
Natasha Marrus is a child psychiatrist and researcher interested in developing measurement tools of social motivation, the capacity by which humans preferentially orient to social stimuli, seek social interactions, and work to maintain social interactions. The capacity for social motivation is believed to arise in infancy and is fundamentally impaired in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Natasha is working with Dr. Markson to develop behavioral paradigms that will allow quantification of social motivation. The goal is for these paradigms to contribute to assessments allowing earlier diagnosis of autism, as well as to inform studies characterizing the development of social motivation and its relationship to other key abilities, such as language.

Grace Reid

Graduate Student
Grace Reid is a native of St. Louis, MO and is excited to return to her hometown. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA in 2017. Her previous research interests have included stereotypes and prejudice, stereotype threat and intersectionality. As a graduate student, she plans to explore the development of biases in children and children’s knowledge of stereotypes. In her free time, Grace enjoys playing with her dog, watching movies and exploring the city of St. Louis.

Taylor Bird McGuire

Postgraduate Research Assistant & Lab Manager
Taylor Bird McGuire is a 2017 Washington University in St. Louis graduate who majored in Psychological Brain Sciences and minored in French and Design. She is originally from Louisville, Kentucky and since graduating has moved to Toulouse, France as an english teaching assistant. Taylor has continued her work in the lab throughout the summer of 2017 and 2018, focusing on how learned biases influence the ways children interact with the world around.

Olivia Quinn

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Olivia is a sophomore majoring in Psychological & Brain Sciences. Outside of the lab, she enjoys reading to kids in the St. Louis area as a member of Out of the Blue. Olivia is excited to gain a greater understanding of developmental psychology through her work in the lab as a research assistant.

Mackenzie Hines-Wilson

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Mackenzie is a rising sophomore majoring in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology on the Cognitive Neuroscience track and she is working in the lab as a research assistant. She is interested in studying cognitive development in children and how it may differ among racial groups. Prior to coming to Dr. Markson’s lab, she assisted in another psychology lab on WashU’s campus that studied implicit biases. Outside the lab, she enjoys being the Director of Services for the Congress of the South 40.

Tochi Onyeador

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Tochi is a Junior majoring in Psychological & Brain Sciences. In his free time, he likes to ride his bike, read comics, and play video games. Upon graduation, Tochi hopes to attend graduate school to study clinical psychology.

Sahara Ensley

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Sahara Ensley is a Junior majoring in Cognitive Neuroscience and minoring in Computer Science. In the lab she is an RA on the Optimism Study as well as studies looking at learning in children. Outside of the lab she runs on the WashU Cross Country and Track and Field Team. In the future she hopes to attend graduate school for clinical child psychology or clinical neuropsychology.

Keaira Clancy

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Keaira is a junior from Springfield, Missouri. She is majoring in Psychological & Brain Sciences as well as minoring in Medical Humanities and Biology. Outside of class, Keaira serves on the executive boards for both Delta Gamma Fraternity and Sisters of Color. In the future, she hopes to attend medical school in pursuit of becoming a Pediatrician.