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Kara Weisman

[email: kgweisman at gmail] [twitter: @kgweisman] [cv: pdf]

I study intuitive theories, conceptual change, and folk philosophy of mind, with particular attention to the ways these conceptual representations do and do not vary across development, across cultural settings, and across individuals. I am currently the postdoctoral project director for the Developing Belief Network.

About me

Current work

I am broadly interested in intuitive theories and conceptual change, with a focus on folk philosophy of mind — how ordinary people come to understand things like mental life, personhood, and the relationship between mind and body. I completed my Ph.D. in psychology in 2019, working primarily with Ellen Markman (lab website) and Carol Dweck.

Most of my work takes the form of behavioral studies with 3- to 10-year-old children and adults. I am especially interested in applying “bottom-up” analysis approaches to exploring and quantifying similarities and differences in concepts across groups of people — such as people of different ages, or people from different cultural settings.

Since 2016, I have been one of the core researchers on the Mind & Spirit Project (PI: Tanya Luhrmann, Stanford University Department of Anthropology), which explores how people in different cultural and religious settings conceptualize “the mind” and how that shapes their spiritual experiences. Over the course of several years, our team of anthropologists and psychologists employed a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods to work with adults and children from many religious traditions located in urban and rural field sites in the US, Ghana, Thailand, China, and Vanuatu. For an initial ethnographic observations, see our recent special issue of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute; for the first quantitative findings from the project, see our recent articles in PNAS and Nature Human Behaviour.

In Fall 2020, I joined the Developing Belief Network (PIs: Rebekah Richert, Univeristy of California, Riverside, Department of Psychology; Kathleen Corriveau, Boston University, Wheelock College of Education & Human Development) as a postdoctoral Project Director, helping to lead the development of an enduring network of developmental psychologists engaging in collaborative, multi-site research on the religious cognition and behavior across development, faiths, and cultural contexts.

I also collaborate with Ellen Markman and Derek Powell on projects related to modeling and intervening on lay theories to effect behavior change by way of conceptual change, especially in the health domain (e.g., vaccine hesitancy).

Background

I grew up in a small town in central Massachusetts. Before graduate school, I worked as a research assistant for Elizabeth Spelke in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University (2011-13); as a research coordinator for the Preschool Relationships Enhancement Project and the Effective Classroom Interactions MOOC at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia (2011-13); and as the first lab manager of Kristin ShuttsSocial Kids Lab in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2009-11). I graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in Cognitive Science in 2009, where I worked with Kristina Olson (Department of Psychology), David Ross (School of Medicine), Tamar Szabó Gendler (Department of Philosophy), Woo-Kyoung Ahn (Department of Psychology), and Teresa Treat (Department of Psychology).