Graduate Students

Rick Ahl

"I study how young children understand the relationship between observable effects and the underlying causal mechanisms that enable them. Specifically, can children use information about a machine’s functional output to make inferences about the complexity of its 'inside parts'? Do children, like adults, believe that machines performing complex sets of actions must have complex internal mechanisms?" Rick can be reached at

Matthew Fisher

"Broadly, my research looks at how people make sense of a complex world. In particular, I examine how social acts such as argumentation and deference to experts affect how people reason. I am interested in factors that can create an illusion of understanding or lead to  intellectual humility. I look at these topics in adults as well as how they change over development." Matt can be reached at


Sam Johnson

"In the face of the world's daunting complexity, we are able to make sense of things in a seemingly effortless way. I study how people marshal causal and explanatory reasoning to understand experience, and especially how people evaluate explanations and adopt them as beliefs. I am also interested in how explanatory reasoning interacts with social cognition through lay theories of decision-making." Sam can be reached at

To learn more about Sam's research, you can visit his website here.

Angie Johnston

"My research centers around the question 'How do people learn accurate information from others, and how can we strengthen this ability?' Although there are clear benefits to using others as sources of information, there are at least two problems that can arise. First, information provided by others is fallible and can easily be inaccurate if the source is mistaken, incompetent, or deceitful. Second, even when information that others provide is accurate, it does not necessarily qualify as helpful information that can be understood, remembered, and generalized." Angie can be reached at

To learn more about Angie's research, you can visit her website here.

Jonathan Kominsky

"My research looks at how children and adults perceive and understand the multitudes of causal systems they encounter in day-to-day life. In the Cognition and Development lab I focus on how laypeople make sense of complex causal systems (e.g., cars or computers), even when they lack deep mechanical understanding. I am also interested in the tools and heuristics adults use to think about complex causal relationships, and how they might develop over middle childhood." Jonathan can be reached at