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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2nd 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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2nd 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 completed her undergraduate degree 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. 

Yuen (Deborah) Lin
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Deborah completed her Honours BSc in Psychology at the University of Toronto. Her main research interest is in developmental disorders and childhood psychopathology. She hopes to improve mental health services for children with special needs through clinical work. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and listening to music

Practicum Students

Zhen (Jenny) Weng
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2nd year MEd student in the DPE program

Jenny is a second-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.

Yunxuan Zhu
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1st year MEd student in the DPE program

Yunxuan is a recent graduate of Beijing Normal University where she received her B.S. in Psychology. She has a particular interest in exploring children’s language acquisition and cognitive development. During her undergraduate years, she participated in a dyslexia lab in her research practice and also served as a middle school psychology teacher in her teaching practice. These experiences have fueled her strong desire to contribute to the Lab and, with the assistance of fellow lab members, delve deeper into the factors which influence children’s language learning and reasoning. In her spare time, Yunxuan enjoys Chinese calligraphy and exploring nature with friends.

Isabel Kynda Khudr
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1st year MEd student in the DPE program

Isabel obtained her BASc in Honors Human Behavior at McMaster University with a minor in Mental Health, Addiction and Society. She went on to complete a post-graduate certificate in Infant and Early Child Mental Health at Seneca College, where she found her passion to understand the factors that influence cognitive development in children, and how they may influence interactions and relationships with family members. Joining as a first-year MEd Developmental Psychology and Education student, she hopes to further her knowledge in these areas and develop her skills as a researcher. In her personal life, she enjoys rollerskating, being in nature, reading, and connecting with others.

Linlong (Lynn) Wu
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1st year MEd student in the DPE program

Linlong recently graduated from Tianjin Normal University, where he earned his BSc with a major in Bioscience and a minor in Psychology. Currently, he is starting his first year in Developmental Psychology and Education at OISE. Linlong’s main area of interest lies in exploring the relationship between language, emotion, and children’s development. During his free time, he enjoys playing tennis and visiting the library.

Research Assistants

Kelly Kim
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Kelly is a third-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 completed her undergraduate degree with 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. 

Elvia Ip
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Elvia is a second-year student specializing in psychology and majoring in cognitive science at the University of Toronto. In particular, she is highly interested in developmental psychology and is curious about exploring the cognitive and social aspects of children’s reasoning and how reasoning changes with age. In her free time, she likes to make art and go to cafes with friends!

Jing Wu
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Jing is a fourth-year student doing a major in Psychology and minors in Mathematics and Environmental behaviours at the University of Toronto. She is very interested in the development of language, emotions and reasoning. She enjoys working with children and exploring linguistic and cognitive development in early childhood. In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies and rock climbing.