Lab Director

Patricia Ganea, Ph.D.
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My primary research area is early cognitive development.  My research is focused on the social, linguistic and representational factors that influence children’s learning. I am especially interested in children’s ability to use language to communicate about things that are not perceptually present and their ability to engage in hypothetical thinking.  I am also interested in how children develop an understanding of the pragmatics of language and of social cognition.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Vaunam Venkadasalam, Ph.D.
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Vaunam acquired her PhD and MA in Development Psychology and Education from the University of Toronto and obtained an Honours BSc in Biology and Psychology from York University. Vaunam’s research broadly investigates early cognitive development. She is primarily interested in examining young children’s scientific understanding. The science domain provides interesting opportunities to examine questions about how children’s prior beliefs can affect learning scientific information especially when the facts and concepts run counter to their beliefs and how to foster scientific reasoning skills in young children. Vaunam’s research on scientific understanding is situated within a broader context of understanding how to facilitate conceptual change in young children. Her research has implications for evidence-based pedagogical strategies that promote science learning at home and in educational settings.

Graduate Students

Josanne Buchanan 
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1st year MA student in the DPE program

Josanne received her Honours BSc in Psychology after completing a Psychology Specialist degree at the University of Toronto, St. George campus. Driven by a passion for understanding childhood cognition, Josanne is interested in exploring the development of social cognition in early childhood, and the potential for symbolic media to facilitate the process of social learning throughout development. How can fictional worlds promote social-emotional learning and cross-cultural understanding? Can storytelling help children to become more adept at navigating their social and cognitive environments? 

Josanne has studied the impact of parental praise on preschoolers’ persistence behaviours and has spent two years examining the impact of symbolic media forms on children’s understanding of self and world. She elaborates on these interests at the Language and Learning Lab. 

Julianna Lu
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1st year MA student in the SCCP program

Julianna recently completed her MA in Developmental Psychology at the University of Waterloo, where she investigated children’s intuitive number sense and probabilistic reasoning. Currently, Julianna is entering her first year in the School and Clinical Child Psychology (SCCP) MA program at OISE. She hopes to examine children’s counterfactual thinking and its association with rumination. For example, counterfactual reasoning is closely related to various social-cognitive variables, such as emotional states of regret and relief. Julianna is interested in exploring the emotional characteristics of counterfactual thinking and its implications on mental well-being. Outside of academia, Julianna enjoys roller skating, reading, sketching, and going for hikes. 

Mary Beth Neff
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Visiting PhD Researcher

Mary Beth is a visiting PhD fellow from the University of Oslo in Norway. Her PhD research investigates why some young children interpret what other people say very literally (e.g., why when you ask a 4-year-old to “keep their eye on the ball,” they might try to literally put their eye on the ball). She aims to explore what may be driving this “literal phase” to see how it influences 3- to 7-year-old children’s ability to understand metaphors and other types of figurative language.

Lab Coordinators

Patrycia Jarosz
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Patrycia is a fourth year student in the Specialized Honours Psychology program at York University. For her honours thesis, she evaluated a specialized autism program developed by the YCDSB and is now interested in investigating the factors which influence children’s developmental learning. During her free time, she loves to volunteer at a daycare. 

Rosalind Cho
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Rosalind is a recent University of Waterloo graduate majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Psychology. She is particularly interested in learning + memory processes and hopes to integrate her biomedical background to understand how these processes are developed and strengthened throughout childhood. In her spare time, she enjoys learning new languages and yoga!

Practicum Students

Sarah Gildone
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1st year MEd student in the DPE program

Sarah is a recent graduate of McGill University where she obtained her B.A. with a major in Psychology and minors in Behavioural Science and Italian. She has a particular interest in developmental disorders, in particular Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disability. Throughout her undergraduate years, she spent time as a research assistant in various labs where she learnt about child development and learning. She hopes to continue on this path with the help of the rest of the Language and Learning Lab and learn more about how children think counterfactually and how this information can be relayed to teachers and support staff to optimize learning experiences for children in schools, especially those with disabilities. During her time away from schoolwork, Sarah loves to go shopping and catch up on her favourite shows!

Zhen Weng
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1st year MEd student in the DPE program

Zhen is a first-year student majoring in MEd Developmental Psychology and Education. She has a strong interest in language acquisition and children’s development. Particularly, she is interested in investigating how students’ learning is shaped by languages as well as cognitive and emotional factors. During her free time, she loves exploring nature, spending time in bookstores, and watching movies.

Research Assistants

Emily Veall
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Emily received her Honours BA in Psychology at Toronto Metropolitan University and MEd in Developmental Psychology & Education at OISE. She previously explored the relation between early self-awareness and spatial navigation. This sparked her interest in learning how everyday experiences (and the ways these are reimagined) may shape self-narratives. Emily has continued satisfying her curiosity about this topic by studying children’s counterfactual thinking. She hopes to shift her focus to include neurodiverse perspectives and uplift children on their path to self-understanding and efficacy. 

Kelly Kim
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Kelly is a second year student at the University of Toronto majoring in psychology with a particular interest in developmental and school psychology.  She really enjoys working with children and is excited to explore how language, emotion, and reasoning affects learning in classroom settings. In her free time, she is a dedicated plant mom, film photographer, and movie-enjoyer!

Misha Khan
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Misha Khan is a fourth year doing a major in Psychology and minors in Mathematics and Education & Society at the University of Toronto. She enjoys working with children of all ages and is particularly interested in their development. In her spare time, she like travelling and watching movies. 

Salima Hackeek
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Salima recently graduated from the University of Toronto where she studied Neuroscience, Nutritional Science and Psychology. She is particularly interested in language acquisition and how children learn.
Salima has loved broadening her research experience with the Language and Learning Lab and is now working on recruitment and administrative responsibilities for the lab. In her spare time, she likes to binge-watch Netflix, spend time with her family and explore the city with her friends.

Yuen Lin
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Yuen is a fourth-year Psychology Specialist student at the University of Toronto. She is interested in developmental psychology and childhood psychopathology. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and listening to music.

Julia Kozlowski
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Julia is a second-year undergraduate student studying Linguistic Anthropology (Society, Language and Culture) and double minoring in Education & Society and Christianity & Education at the University of Toronto. She aspires to be a teacher and is very interested in linguistic, social and cognitive early childhood development. In her free time, she enjoys working with children, going to her cottage and reading!