Richard N. Aslin
- Meliora 316
- Brain & Cognitive Sciences
- University of Rochester
- Rochester, NY 14627-0268
- (585) 275-8687 (office)
- (585) 275-4621 (lab)
- (585) 442-9216 (fax)
During the course of development, human infants gather information about the external world without the benefit of
an extensive base of knowledge that adults automatically bring to bear on perceptual, motor, cognitive, and language
tasks. What mechanisms allow infants to acquire this initial level of information and how does that information guide
subsequent learning? Clearly, most learning that occurs in infancy, and a substantial amount of learning in adulthood,
is performed without instruction—it is implicit and based on an analysis of the distributional properties of
For over a decade, my research has been directed at exploring and understanding these implicit learning mechanisms,
which are typically referred to as "statistical learning". Although initially studied in the task of word segmentation
from fluent speech, statistical learning has been extended to other domains, such as musical tones, phonetic categories,
sequences of visual shapes, sequences of motor responses, and combinations of objects (or object parts) in complex visual
scenes. An important goal of these studies is to reveal the computational constraints that enable statistical learning
to be tractable given the complexity of the input and the infinite number of statistical computations that are possible
over any set of inputs. Initial computational models of statistical learning focused on bi-gram statistics and conditional
probabilities, but more recent work has broadened to include Bayesian ideal learning models. Empirical studies of
statistical learning have also evolved to explore order effects in learning multiple structures and to understand how
statistical patterns trigger the formation of categories.
A related line of research focuses on spoken word recognition in both infants, toddlers, and adults using eye-tracking
methods. Once an auditory word-form has been extracted from fluent speech, how does the infant map that sequence of sounds
onto meaning? Recent and on-going studies have examined how infants and toddlers recognize the meaning of the unfolding
speech signal, for both previously known and recently learned words, as well as for mispronounced words or words preceded by
a disfluency. Most of these studies employ one of three Tobii eye-trackers, while others that are just beginning use a novel
head-mounted eye-tracker in combination with a LENA audio-recording and analysis system. Studies of adults employ an
artificial lexicon paradigm and the visual world eye-tracking paradigm to carefully control variables such as word frequency
and acoustic similarity (neighborhood structure).
In the past few years, my research has moved toward studies of brain function in adults and infants using fMRI and optical
imaging, respectively. A new 3T magnet facility (http://www.rcbi.rochester.edu)
has enabled us to measure activations in a targeted brain area, such as MT/MST, to novel words that have been linked during
a lexical learning task to referents which have the property of motion. This allows us to determine if similar sounding words
also activate MT/MST even if they do not have the referential property of motion, thereby serving as a measure of lexical
competition. An optical imaging system (Hitachi ETG-4000) provides a 48-channel measure of hemodynamic activity in the
superficial layers of cortex while infants are being presented with controlled stimulation. This system enables us to assess
activations in various regions of the infant brain, thereby revealing the neural correlates of behavioral measures such as
looking time. We are particularly interested in how these optical signals change over time as a way of understanding aspects
of habituation and statistical learning.
- Aslin, R. N. (2014). Infant learning: Historical, conceptual, and methodological challenges. Infancy, 19, 2-27.
- Brandone, A. C., Horwitz, S. R., Aslin, R. N., & Wellman, H. M. (2014). Infants' goal anticipation during failed and successful reaching actions. Developmental Science, 17, 23-34 [doi: 10.1111/desc.12095]
- Karuza, E. A., Newport, E. L., Aslin, R. N., Starling, S. J., Tivarus, M. E., & Bavelier, D. (2013). The neural correlates of statistical learning in a word segmentation task: An fMRI study. Brain and Language, 127, 46-54 [http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bandl.2012.11.007
Wu, R., Scerif, G., Aslin, R. N. Smith, T., and Eimer, M. (2013). Searching for something familiar or novel: ERP correlates of top-down attentional selection for specific items and categories. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25, 719-729 [doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00352]
- Aslin, R. N. (2013). Questioning the questions that have been asked about the infant brain using NIRS. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 29, 7-33.
- Kidd, C., Palmeri, H., and Aslin, R. N. (2013). Rational snacking: Young children's decision-making on the marshmallow task. Cognition, 126, 109-114.
- Reeder, P. A., Newport, E. L, and Aslin, R. N. (2013). From shared contexts to syntactic categories: The role of distributional information in learning linguistic form-classes. Cognitive Psychology, 66, 30-54.
- Qian, T., Jaeger, T. F., and Aslin, R. N. (2012). Learning to represent a multi-context environment: more than detecting changes. Frontiers in Psychology, 3 (228). [doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00228]
- Aslin, R. N. and Newport, E. L. (2012). Statistical learning: From acquiring specific items to forming general rules. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 170-176 [doi: 10.1177/0963721412436806]
- Kidd, C., Piantadosi, S., and Aslin, R. N. (2012). The Goldilocks effect: Human infants allocate attention to visual sequences that are neither too simple nor too complex. PLoS ONE, 7(5): e36399. [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036399].
- Aslin, R. N. (2012). Infant eyes: A window on cognitive development. Infancy, 17, 126-140.
Creel, S. C., Aslin, R. N., and Tanenhaus, M. K. (2012). Word learning under adverse listening conditions: Context-specific recognition. Language and Cognitive Processes, 27, 1021-1038.
- Gervain, J., Mehler, J., Werker, J. F., Nelson, C. A., Csibra, G., Lloyd-Fox, S., Shukla, M., and Aslin, R. N. (2011). Near-Infrared Spectroscopy: A Report from the McDonnell Infant Methodology Consortium. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 1, 22-46.
- Kidd, C., White, K. S., and Aslin, R. N. (2011). Toddlers use speech disfluencies to predict speakers' referential intentions. Developmental Science, 14:4, 925–934. [doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2011.01049.x]
- Bejjanki, V. R., Clayards, M., Knill, D. C. and Aslin, R. N. (2011). Cue integration in categorical tasks: Insights from audio-visual speech perception. PLoS One, 6, e19812. [doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019812]
- Roser, M. E., Fiser, J., Aslin, R. N., and Gazzaniga, M. S. (2011). Right hemisphere dominance in visual statistical learning. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 1088-1099. [doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21508]
- White, K. S. and Aslin, R. N. (2011). Adaptation to novel accents in toddlers. Developmental Science, 14, 372-384. [doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.00986.x]
Shukla, M., White, K. S., and Aslin, R. N. (2011). Prosody guides the rapid mapping of auditory word forms onto visual objects in 6-mo-old infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 6038-6043. [doi:10.1073/pnas.1017617108]
- Aslin, R. N. (2011). Perceptual organization of visual structure requires a flexible learning mechanism. Infancy, 16, 39-44.
- Cicchino, J. B., Aslin, R. N., and Rakison, D. H. (2011). Infants' visual experiences shape their representations of causal and self-propelled motion. Cognition, 118, 171-192.
Shukla, M., Wen, J., White, K. S., and Aslin, R. N. (2011). SMART-T: A system for fully automated anticipatory eye-tracking paradigms. Behavior Research Methods, 43, 384-398. [doi: 10.3758/s13428-010-0056-6]
- Hunt, R. H. and Aslin, R. N. (2010). Category induction via distributional analysis: Evidence from a serial reaction time task. Journal of Memory and Language, 62, 98-112.
- Aslin, R. N. (2009). How infants view natural scenes gathered from a head-mounted camera. Optometry and Vision Science, 86, 561-565.
- Gebhart, A. L., Aslin, R. N., & Newport, E. L. (2009). Changing structures in mid-stream: Learning along the statistical
garden path. Cognitive Science, 33, 1087-1116.
- Gebhart, A. L., Newport, E. L., and Aslin, R. N. (2009). Statistical learning of adjacent and non-adjacent dependencies
among non-linguistic sounds. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16, 486-490.
- McMurray, B., Aslin, R. N., and Toscano, J. C. (2009). Statistical learning of phonetic categories: Insights from a
computational approach. Developmental Science, 12, 369-378.
- McMurray, B., Tanenhaus, M. K., & Aslin, R. N. (2009). Within-category VOT affects
recovery from "lexical" garden paths: Evidence against phoneme-level inhibition. Journal of Memory and Language, 60, 65-91.
STATISTICAL LEARNING (auditory)
- Creel, S. C., Newport, E. L., and Aslin, R. N. (2004). Distant melodies: Statistical
learning of non-adjacent dependencies in tone sequences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and
Cognition, 30, 1119-1130.
- Newport, E. L. and Aslin, R. N. (2004). Learning at a distance: I. Statistical
learning of non-adjacent dependencies. Cognitive Psychology, 48, 127-162.
- Newport, E. L., Hauser, M. D., Spaepen, G., and Aslin, R. N. (2004). Learning at a
distance: II. Statistical learning of non-adjacent dependencies in a non-human primate. Cognitive Psychology, 49,
- Hauser, M.D., Newport, E.L., & Aslin, R.N. (2001). Segmentation of the speech
stream in a nonhuman primate: Statistical learning in cotton top tamarins. Cognition, 78, B53-B64.
- Saffran, J.R., Johnson, E.K., Aslin, R.N., & Newport, E.L. (1999). Statistical
learning of tone sequences by adults and infants. Cognition, 70, 27-52.
- Aslin, R.N., Saffran, J.R., & Newport, E.L. (1998). Computation of conditional
probability statistics by human infants. Psychological Science, 9, 321-324.
- Saffran, J.R., Newport, E.L., Aslin, R.N., Tunick, R.A., & Barrueco, S. (1997). Incidental language learning: Listening
(and learning) out of the corner of your ear. Psychological Science, 8, 101-105.
- Saffran, J.R., Aslin, R.N., & Newport, E.L. (1996).
Statistical learning by 8-month old infants. Science, 274, 1926-1928.
- Saffran, J.R., Newport, E.L., & Aslin, R.N. (1996). Word segmentation: The role of
distributional cues. Journal of Memory and Language, 35, 606-621.
STATISTICAL LEARNING (visual)
- Orban, G., Fiser, J., Aslin, R. N., and Lengyel, M. (2008). Bayesian learning of visual chunks
by human observers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105, 2745-2750.
- Fiser, J., Scholl, B. J., & Aslin, R. N. (2007). Perceived object trajectories
during occlusion constrain visual statistical learning. Psychological Bulletin and Review, 14, 173-178.
- Fiser, J., & Aslin, R.N. (2005). Encoding multi-element scenes: Statistical
learning of visual feature hierarchies. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 134, 521-537.
- Fiser, J., & Aslin, R.N. (2002). Statistical learning of higher-order temporal
structure from visual shape-sequences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 28(3),
- Fiser, J., & Aslin, R.N. (2002). Statistical learning of new visual feature
combinations by infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 99, 15822-15826.
- Fiser, J., & Aslin, R.N. (2001). Unsupervised statistical learning of higher-order
spatial structures from visual scenes. Psychological Science, 12, 499-504.
- Hunt, R.H., & Aslin, R.N. (2001). Statistical learning in a serial reaction time task:
Simultaneous extraction of multiple statistics. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130(4), 658-680.
SPOKEN WORD RECOGNITION
- Clayards, M. A., Tanenhaus, M. K., Aslin, R. N., & Jacobs, R. A. (2008). Perception of speech reflects
optimal use of probabilistic speech cues. Cognition, 108, 804-809.
- Magnuson, J. S., Tanenhaus, M. K., and Aslin, R. N. (2008). Immediate effects of form-class constraints on
spoken word recognition. Cognition, 108, 866-873.
- McMurray, B., Aslin, R. N., Tanenhaus, M. K., Spivey, M. J., and Subik, D. (2008).
Gradient sensitivity to within-category variation in words and syllables. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and
Performance, 34, 1609-1631.
- McMurray, B., Clayards, M. A., Tanenhaus, M. K., & Aslin, R. N. (2008). Tracking
the time course of phonetic cue integration during spoken word recognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 15, 1064-1071.
- Pirog Revill, K., Tanenhaus, M. K., and Aslin, R. N. (2008). Context and spoken word
recognition in a novel lexicon. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 34, 1207-1223.
- Pirog Revill, K., Aslin, R. N., Tanenhaus, M. K., and Bavelier, D. (2008). Neural correlates of partial
lexical activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105, 13110-13114.
- Maye, J., Aslin, R. N., and Tanenhaus, M. K. (2008). The weckud wetch of the wast: Lexical
adaptation to a novel accent. Cognitive Science, 32, 543-562.
- Creel, S. C., Aslin, R. N., and Tanenhaus, M. K. (2008). Heeding the voice of experience: The
role of talker variation in lexical access. Cognition, 106, 633-664.
- Swingley, D. and Aslin, R. N. (2007). Lexical competition in young children's word
learning. Cognitive Psychology 54, 99-132.
- Magnuson, J. S., Dixon, J. A., Tanenhaus, M. K., & Aslin, R. N. (2007). The dynamics of
lexical competition during spoken word recognition. Cognitive Science, 31, 1-24.
- Creel, S. C., Aslin, R. N., and Tanenhaus, M. K. (2006). Acquiring an artificial lexicon: Segment
type and order information in early lexical entries. Journal of Memory and Language, 54, 1-19.
- Creel, S. C., Tanenhaus, M. K., and Aslin, R. N. (2006). Consequences of lexical stress on
learning an artificial lexicon. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 32, 15-32.
- Yu, C., Ballard, D. H., and Aslin, R. N. (2005). The role of embodied intention in early
lexical acquisition. Cognitive Science, 29, 961-1005.
- Coady, J. A. and Aslin, R. N. (2004). Young children's sensitivity to probabilistic
phonotactics in the developing lexicon. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 89, 183-213.
- Coady, J.A., & Aslin, R.N. (2003). Phonological neighbourhoods in the developing
lexicon. Journal of Child Language, 30, 441-469.
- Magnuson, J.S., McMurray, B., Tanenhaus, M.K., & Aslin, R.N. (2003). Lexical effects on
compensation for coarticulation: The ghost of Christmash past. Cognitive Science, 27, 285-298.
- Magnuson, J. S., McMurray, B., Tanenhaus, M. K., and Aslin, R. N. (2003). Lexical effects
on compensation for coarticulation: A tale of two systems? Cognitive Science, 27, 801-805.
- Magnuson, J.S., Tanenhaus, M.K., Aslin, R.N., & Dahan, D. (2003). The time course
of spoken word learning and recognition: Studies with artificial lexicons. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,
- McMurray, B., Tanenhaus, M.K., & Aslin, R.N. (2002). Gradient effects of
within-category phonetic variation on lexical access. Cognition, 86, B33-B42.
- Swingley, D., & Aslin, R.N. (2002). Lexical neighborhoods and word-form representations
of 14-month-olds. Psychological Science, 13, 480-484.
- Swingley, D., & Aslin, R.N. (2000). Spoken word recognition and lexical representation
in very young children. Cognition, 76, 147-166.
INFANT SPEECH PERCEPTION
- Teinonen, T., Aslin, R. N., Alku, P., & Csibra, G. (2008). Visual speech contributes to phonetic
learning in 6-month-old infants. Cognition, 108, 850-855.
- Maye, J., Weiss, D. J., and Aslin, R. N. (2008). Statistical phonetic learning in infants:
Facilitation and feature generalization. Developmental Science, 11, 122-134.
- Gerken, L. A. and Aslin, R. N. (2005). Thirty years of research on infant speech
perception: The legacy of Peter W. Jusczyk. Language Learning and Development, 1, 5-21.
- McMurray, B. and Aslin, R. N. (2005). Infants are sensitive to within-category
variation in speech perception. Cognition, 95, B15-B26.
- Aslin, R.N., Werker, J.F., & Morgan, J.L. (2002). Innate phonetic boundaries
revisited. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 112, 1257-1260.
INFANT VISUAL PERCEPTION
- Johnson, S.P., & Aslin, R.N. (2000). Infants' perception of transparency.
Developmental Psychology, 36, 808-816.
- Johnson, S.P., & Aslin, R.N. (1998). Young infants' perception of illusory contours in dynamic displays. Perception,
- Aslin, R.N., & Johnson, S.P. (1996). Suppression of the optokinetic reflex in human
infants: Implications for stable fixation and shifts of attention. Infant Behavior and Development, 19, 233-240.
- Johnson, S.P., & Aslin, R.N. (1996). Perception of object unity in young infants:
The roles of motion, depth, and orientation. Cognitive Development, 11, 161-180.
- Aslin, R. N. (2007). What's in a look? Developmental Science, 10, 48-53.
- Aslin, R. N. and Fiser, J. (2005). Methodological challenges for understanding
cognitive development in infants. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9, 92-98.
- Aslin, R. N. and Mehler, J. (2005). Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) for functional
studies of brain activity in human infants: Promise, prospects, and challenges. Journal of Biomedical Optics,
10, no. 011009.
- Aslin, R. N. and McMurray, B. (2004). Automated corneal-reflection eye-tracking in
infancy: Methodological developments and applications to cognition. Infancy, 6, 155-163.
- McMurray, B. and Aslin, R. N. (2004). Anticipatory eye movements reveal infants'
auditory and visual categories. Infancy, 6, 203-229.
- Aslin, R. N., Battaglia, P. W., and Jacobs, R. A. (2004). Depth-dependent contrast
gain-control. Vision Research, 44, 685-693.
- Battaglia, P. W., Jacobs, R. A., and Aslin, R. N. (2004). Depth-dependent blur
adaptation. Vision Research, 44, 113-117.
- Battaglia, P. W., Jacobs, R. A., and Aslin, R. N. (2003). Bayesian integration of
visual and auditory signals for spatial localization. Journal of the Optical Society A, 20, 1391-1397.
- Meegan, D., Aslin, R.N., & Jacobs, R.A. (2000). Motor timing learned without motor
training. Nature Neuroscience, 3, 860-862.
CHAPTERS AND COMMENTARIES
- Aslin, R. N. (2008). Headed in the right direction: A commentary on Yoshida and Smith. Infancy, 13, 275-278.
- Aslin, R. N. (2006). Processes of change in brain and cognitive development: The final word. In M. Johnson & Y. Munakata
(Eds.), Attention and Performance XXI: Processes of change in brain and cognitive development. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Aslin, R. N. and Schlagger, B. L. (2006). Is myelination the precipitating
neural event for language development in infants and toddlers? Neurology, 66, 304-305.
- Aslin, R.N., & Hunt, R.H. (2001). Development, plasticity, and learning in the auditory system. In C. A. Nelson &
M. Luciana (Eds.), Handbook of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 205-220.
- Aslin, R.N. (2000). Why take the cog out of infant cognition? Infancy,
- Aslin, R.N., Jusczyk, P.W., & Pisoni, D.B. (1998). Speech and auditory processing during infancy: Constraints on and
precursors to language. In D. Kuhn & R. Siegler (Eds.), Handbook of Child Psychology, Fifth edition. Volume 2:
Cognition, Perception and Language (W. Damon, series editor). New York: Wiley, pp. 147-198.
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- Daphne Bavelier, Professor, Department of Brain and
Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester
Berger, Associate Professor, Institute of Optics, University of Rochester
- József Fiser, Assistant
Professor, Department of Psychology, Brandeis University
- Robert A. Jacobs, Professor, Department
of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester
- David Knill, Professor, Department of Brain and
Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester
- Elissa L. Newport, George Eastman Professor, Department of Brain and
Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester
- Michael Tanenhaus, Professor, Department
of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester
- "Statistical approaches to linguistic pattern learning", NIH Grant (HD-37082), co-PI Elissa Newport, 2009-2014.
- "Program grant to develop Near-infrared Spectroscopy in combination with ERPs and fMRI to assess cognitive development in human infants and young children," McDonnell Foundation (220020096), 2007-2011.
- "Complex learning and skill transfer with video games", ONR-MURI grant, PI Daphne Bavelier, 2007-2012.
- "Time course of spoken word recognition," NIH grant (DC-05071), PI Michael K. Tanenhaus, 2007-2012.
- "Enhanced near-infrared monitoring of brain function in infants ", NSF grant, PI Andrew Berger, 2010-2012.
- "Statistical learning of multiple patterns in infants, adults, and monkeys", NIH grant, PI Daniel Weiss, 2011-2015.
- BCS 561: Speech Perception and Recognition
- BCS 562: Statistical Learning
- BCS 565: Language and the Brain
- BCS 599: Professional Development and Career Planning
Current Graduate Students & Postdocs
- Katie Bankieris
- Grad student, B.S. 2010, Emory University, M.A. 2011 University of Edinbrough, sensory integration and synesthesia
- Steve Piantadosi
- Postdoc, Ph.D. 2011, MIT, compositional basis of cognitive development, models of language learning
- Lauren Emberson
- Postdoc, Ph.D. 2011, Cornell University, effects of experience on sensory and perceptual processing, NIRS and MRI in infants
- Vik Rao
- Postdoc, Ph.D. 2009, University of Rochester, computational models of cue-combination and probabilistic learning
- Sarah Starling
- Grad student, M.A. 2010, University of Rochester, probability learning in infants, neural correlates of stastistical learning, brain plasticity in hemispherectomy patients
- Celeste Kidd
- Grad student, B.A. 2007, University of Southern California, speech perception and lexical development in infants, computational models of language processing
- Jennifer Merickel
- Grad student, B.A. 2008, University of Iowa, lexical and semantic constraints on word learning, speech perception, neural correlates of lexical learning and reorganization
- Cory Bonn
- Graduate student, MFA 2010, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, language learning, music cognition, species differences in speech and music processing
- Ting Qian
- Graduate student, B.A. 2009, University of Rochester, computational models of language structure, processing, and learning
- Neil Bardhan, Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
- Meghan Clayards, Assistant Professor, Departments of Linguistics and Communication Sciences, McGill University
- Jeff Coady, Associate Professor, Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences, University of Colorado-Boulder
- Sarah Creel, Assistant Professor, Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego
- Andrea Rommel, Senior Research Administrator, RIT
- Scott P. Johnson, Professor, Developmental Psychology, UCLA
- Jim Magnuson, Associate Professor, Department of
Psychology, University of Connecticut
- Jessica Maye, Adjunct Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University
- Bob McMurray, Associate
Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Iowa
- Toby Mintz, Associate
Professor, Psychology & Linguistics, University of Southern California
- Kate Pirog Revill,
Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Psychology, Georgia Tech University
- Vik Rao, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Rochester
- Jenny Saffran, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Mohinish Shukla
- Daniel Swingley, Associate Professor,
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
- Daniel Weiss, Associate Professor, Department of
Psychology & Linguistics, Pennsylvania State University
- Katherine White, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo
Former Lab Managers
- Suzanne Horwitz, Graduate student, Department of Psychology, Yale University
- Koleen McCrink, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Barnard College
- Julie Markant, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychology, Linguistics, and Cognitive Science, Brown University
- Alyssa Thatcher, Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester
- Rachel White, Graduate student, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota