The Markman Lab
A selection of current projects (2019-20)
- Language and reasoning about social categories.
Language can powerfully shape the way we conceptualize the world around us, including the way we organize things into categories. What role does language play in the development of essentialist beliefs about categories? Essentialism is the belief that categories possess some innate essence that produces stable and unchangeable similarities among category members, and that sharply divides category members from non-category members. Essentialism of social categories in particular can be problematic, and can lead to stereotyping and prejudice. In this study, we're particularly interested in the early childhood origins of gender essentialism. How does the language children hear influence whether they develop essentialist beliefs about gender? In a typical study from this project, we read passages of stories to 5 and 6 year old children, and ask them questions probing their representation of gender.
- Storybooks to motivate girls into fields in which they’ve been underrepresented.
How can we inspire and motivate girls to achieve and pursue fields in which they have been historically underrepresented (e.g. science)? Recently, there has been an explosion of well-intentioned efforts to address this question. In particular there is a growing market of storybooks about historical female role models intended to inspire and motivate young female readers. In this study, we’re interested in evaluating how effective different elements of these storybooks are in motivating girls to actually pursue these fields. In a typical study from this project, we read select excerpts of actual best-selling storybooks to 5 and 6 year old children, and ask them questions about their own motivation and a third-party’s motivation to pursue a certain field or career. To sign your child up to participate in this study, see our participate page!