Postdoctoral Research Associate

Natasha Marrus

Physician Scientist
Email: natasha@wustl.edu
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.

Laura Hennefield, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Email: lhennefield@wustl.edu
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.