Stephanie Denison

Stephanie Denison
University of Waterloo | UWaterloo · Department of Psychology

About

42
Publications
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831
Citations

Publications

Publications (42)
Article
In pursuing goals, people seek favorable odds. We investigated whether young children use this fact to infer goals from people's actions across two experiments on Canadian 3- to 7-year-old children (N = 316; 167 girls, 149 boys). Participants' demographic information was not formally collected, but the region is predominantly middle-class and White...
Article
People are sometimes drawn to novel items, but other times prefer familiar ones. In the present research we show, though, that both children’s and adults’ preferences for novel versus familiar items depend on their goals. Across four experiments, we showed 4- to 7-year-olds (total N = 498) and adults (total N = 659) pairs of artifacts where one was...
Article
Full-text available
Children are skilled reasoners who readily use causal, reliability, and base-rate (i.e., prior probability) information in their decisions. Though these abilities are typically studied in isolation, children often must consider multiple pieces of information to make an informed decision. Four experiments ( N = 320) explored the development of child...
Article
Full-text available
Machines are increasingly used to make decisions. We investigated people's beliefs about how they do so. In six experiments, participants (total N = 2664) predicted how computer and human judges would decide legal cases on the basis of limited evidence-either individuating information from witness testimony or base-rate information. In Experiments...
Article
Young children anticipate that others act rationally in light of their beliefs and desires, and environmental constraints. However, little is known about whether children anticipate others’ irrational choices. We investigated young children's ability to predict that sunk costs can lead to irrational choices. Across four experiments, 5- to 6-year-ol...
Article
Full-text available
The current investigation examines children’s ( N = 61; 4- to 8-year old) learning about a novel machine in a local history museum. Parent–child dyads were audio-recorded as they navigated an exhibit that contained a novel artifact: a coffee grinder from the turn of the 20th century. Prior to entering the exhibit, children were randomly assigned to...
Article
Four experiments examined Canadian 2‐ to 3‐year‐old children’s (N = 224; 104 girls, 120 boys) thoughts about shared preferences. Children saw sets of items, and identified theirs and another person’s preferences. Children expected that food preferences would be more likely to be shared than color preferences, regardless of whether the items were si...
Preprint
Four experiments examined Canadian 2-3-year-old children’s (N=224; 104 girls, 120 boys) thoughts about shared preferences. Children saw sets of items, and identified theirs and another person’s preferences. Children expected that food preferences would be more likely to be shared than color preferences, regardless of whether the items were similar...
Article
How we feel about an outcome often depends on how close an alternative outcome was to occurring. In four experiments, we investigated whether predominantly White, middle-class, Canadian children (N = 425, Experiments 1-3) and American adults (N = 227, Experiment 4) consider close counterfactual alternatives when inferring other people's emotions. I...
Preprint
How we feel about an outcome often depends on how close an alternative outcome was to occurring. In four experiments, we investigated whether predominantly White, middle-class, Canadian children (N = 425, Experiments 1-3) and American adults (N = 227, Experiment 4) consider close counterfactual alternatives when inferring other people’s emotions. I...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
People often over value their current property. For example, even young children will choose to keep their current property over trading it for property of similar utility (Hartley & Fisher, 2018). In two experiments (N = 180), we examined how children aged 3 and 4 weigh the potential loss of existing property against the gain of property in their...
Conference Paper
The ability to infer other people's emotions is an important aspect of children's social cognition. Here, we examined whether 4-to 6-year-olds use probability to infer other people's happiness. Children saw a scenario where a girl receives two desired and two undesired gumballs from a gumball machine and were asked to rate how the girl feels about...
Preprint
Exploratory play supports children’s learning, but the factors that influence play are not fully identified. Here, we investigate whether experiencing an unexpected success on an initial task influences children’s exploration on a subsequent task. In Experiment 1 (N=72), we found that when 4-year-olds successfully completed a puzzle that they were...
Article
Exploratory play supports children’s learning, but the factors that influence play are not fully identified. Here, we investigate whether experiencing an unexpected success on an initial task influences children’s exploration on a subsequent task. In Experiment 1 (N = 72), we found that when 4-year-olds successfully completed a puzzle that they wer...
Preprint
Happiness with an outcome often depends on whether better or worse outcomes were initially more likely. In five experiments, we found that young children (N = 620, Experiments 1–4) and adults (N = 254, Experiment 5) used probability to infer emotions and assess outcome quality. In Experiments 1 and 2, 5- and 6-year-olds (but not 4-year-olds) inferr...
Article
The current experiments investigate how infants use goal‐directed action to reason about intentionally sampled outcomes in a probabilistic inference paradigm. Older infants and young children are flexible in their expectations of sampling: They expect random samples to reflect population statistics and non‐random samples to reflect an agent's prefe...
Article
Happiness with an outcome often depends on whether better or worse outcomes were initially more likely. In five experiments, we found that young children ( N = 620, Experiments 1–4) and adults ( N = 254, Experiment 5) used probability to infer emotions and assess outcome quality. In Experiments 1 and 2, 5- and 6-year-olds (but not 4-year-olds) infe...
Preprint
Improbable events are surprising. However, it is unknown whether children consider probability when attributing surprise to other people. We conducted four experiments that investigate this issue. In the first three experiments, children saw stories in which two characters received a red gumball from two gumball machines with different distribution...
Article
Humans frequently make inferences about uncertain future events with limited data. A growing body of work suggests that infants and other primates make surprisingly sophisticated inferences under uncertainty. First, we ask what underlying cognitive mechanisms allow young learners to make such sophisticated inferences under uncertainty. We outline t...
Preprint
People can behave in a way that is consistent with Bayesian models of cognition, despite the fact that performing exact Bayesian inference is computationally challenging. What algorithms could people be using to make this possible? We show that a simple sequential algorithm “Win-Stay, Lose-Sample”, inspired by the Win-Stay, Lose-Shift (WSLS) princi...
Preprint
We present a proposal—“The Sampling Hypothesis”—suggesting that the variability in young children’s responses may be part of a rational strategy for inductive inference. In particular, we argue that young learners may be randomly sampling from the set of possible hypotheses that explain the observed data, producing different hypotheses with frequen...
Preprint
Although probabilistic models of cognitive development have become increasingly prevalent, one challenge is to account for how children might cope with a potentially vast number of possible hypotheses. We propose that children might address this problem by ‘sampling’ hypotheses from a probability distribution. We discuss empirical results demonstra...
Article
Improbable events are surprising. However, it is unknown whether children consider probability when attributing surprise to other people. We conducted four experiments that investigate this issue. In the first three experiments, children saw stories in which two characters received a red gumball from two gumball machines with different distribution...
Article
Full-text available
The ability to reason about probabilities has ecological relevance for many species. Recent research has shown that both preverbal infants and non-human great apes can make predictions about single-item samples randomly drawn from populations by reasoning about proportions. To further explore the evolutionary origins of this ability, we conducted t...
Article
Full-text available
Research on infants’ reasoning abilities often rely on looking times, which are longer to surprising and unexpected visual scenes compared to unsurprising and expected ones. Few researchers have examined more precise visual scanning patterns in these scenes, and so, here, we recorded 8- to 11-month-olds’ gaze with an eye tracker as we presented a s...
Article
Inferring others' preferences is socially important and useful. We investigated whether children infer preferences from the minimal information provided by an agent's single action, and whether they avoid inferring preference when the action is constrained. In three experiments, children saw vignettes in which an agent took a worse toy instead of a...
Article
People can behave in a way that is consistent with Bayesian models of cognition, despite the fact that performing exact Bayesian inference is computationally challenging. What algorithms could people be using to make this possible? We show that a simple sequential algorithm "Win-Stay, Lose-Sample", inspired by the Win-Stay, Lose-Shift (WSLS) princi...
Article
Although probabilistic models of cognitive development have become increasingly prevalent, one challenge is to account for how children might cope with a potentially vast number of possible hypotheses. We propose that children might address this problem by 'sampling' hypotheses from a probability distribution. We discuss empirical results demonstra...
Article
Full-text available
A rich tradition in developmental psychology explores physical reasoning in infancy. However, no research to date has investigated whether infants can reason about physical objects that behave probabilistically, rather than deterministically. Physical events are often quite variable, in that similar-looking objects can be placed in similar contexts...
Chapter
Probabilistic models of cognitive development indicate the ideal solutions to computational problems that children face as they try to make sense of their environment. Under this approach, children's beliefs change as the result of a single process: observing new data and drawing the appropriate conclusions from those data via Bayesian inference. H...
Article
In this chapter, we review empirical evidence in support of infants' ability to make rudimentary probabilistic inferences. A recent surge of research in cognitive developmental psychology examines whether human learners, from infancy through adulthood, reason in ways consistent with Bayesian inference. However, when exploring this question an impor...
Article
Probabilistic models of cognitive development indicate the ideal solutions to computational problems that children face as they try to make sense of their environment. Under this approach, children's beliefs change as the result of a single process: observing new data and drawing the appropriate conclusions from those data via Bayesian inference. H...
Article
We present a proposal-"The Sampling Hypothesis"-suggesting that the variability in young children's responses may be part of a rational strategy for inductive inference. In particular, we argue that young learners may be randomly sampling from the set of possible hypotheses that explain the observed data, producing different hypotheses with frequen...
Article
Full-text available
How do people make rich inferences from such sparse data? Recent research has explored this inferential ability by investigating probabilistic reasoning in infancy. For example, 8- and 11-month-old infants can make inferences from samples to populations and vice versa (Denison & Xu, 2010a; Xu & Denison, 2009; Xu & Garcia, 2008a). The current experi...
Article
How do people make such rich inferences from such sparse data? Recent research has explored this inferential ability by investigating probabilistic reasoning in infancy. For example, 8-and 11-month-old infants can make inferences from samples to populations and vice versa (Denison & Xu, 2010a; Xu & Garcia, 2008). The current experiment investigates...
Article
Previous research has revealed that infants can reason correctly about single-event probabilities with small but not large set sizes (Bonatti, 2008; Teglas et al., 2007). The current study asks whether infants can make predictions regarding single-event probability with large set sizes using a novel procedure. Infants completed two trials: A prefer...
Article
Much research on cognitive development focuses either on early-emerging domain-specific knowledge or domain-general learning mechanisms. However, little research examines how these sources of knowledge interact. Previous research suggests that young infants can make inferences from samples to populations (Xu & Garcia, 2008) and 11- to 12.5-month-ol...
Article
Research on initial conceptual knowledge and research on early statistical learning mechanisms have been, for the most part, two separate enterprises. We report a study with 11-month-old infants investigating whether they are sensitive to sampling conditions and whether they can integrate intentional information in a statistical inference task. Pre...
Article
Full-text available
Researchers in both educational and developmental psychol-ogy have suggested that children are not particularly adept hy-pothesis testers, and that their behavior can often appear irra-tional. However, a growing body of research also suggests that people do engage in rational inference on a variety of tasks. Recently researchers have begun testing...
Article
smdeniso@interchange.ubc.ca) Kathleen Konopczynski (konopczy@interchange.ubc.ca) Vashti Garcia (vashti@psych.ubc.ca) Fei Xu (fei@psych.ubc.ca) Abstract Recent research in cognitive and language development suggests that infants and young children are capable of complex computations and statistical inference. The present studies investigated whether...