Thursday 22 October 2015

Episode 7 - Valerie Kuhlmeier

Valerie Kuhlmeier is an Associate Professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, Canada.  She is the director of The Infant Cognition Group, a laboratory studying cognitive development in the first few years of life.

Val is happy about her book
Valerie grew up outside of Los Angeles, CA, but moved south to the University of California, San Diego, to pursue a BA and a BS in Anthropology and Biology, respectively.  There, she worked with Christine Johnson, a comparative cognitive psychologist who was studying gaze-following behaviour in bonobos at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. 

Exhibiting great dedication to the scientific endeavor, Valerie then left the sunny beaches of San Diego for the snowy winters of Columbus, Ohio.  There, she worked under the supervision of Sally Boysen at the Ohio State University Chimp Center, studying theory of mind and the use of physical representations of space such as maps and scale models.  She was a regular attendee of the Tri-State Animal Learning Conference and became a founding member (founding student member, that is…she’s not THAT old) of the Comparative Cognition Society. 

She then spent four years working as a postdoctoral fellow and instructor at Yale University in New Haven, CT.  Her previous research examining social-cognition in nonhuman primates formed a good foundation for her work with mentors Karen Wynn and Paul Bloom on cognitive development in young human primates, specifically infants.   She also developed an undergraduate course on Comparative Cognition and has been updating and improving it ever since.

In 2004, she accepted a position at Queen’s University.  Her research program focuses on cognition from a developmental and evolutionary perspective.  Specifically, she studies the development of social cognition, including the recognition of others’ goals and needs (e.g., intention reading, theory of mind), the imitative and empathetic responses to those goals and needs, and the subsequent generation of prosocial behaviour.  She also continues to teach courses on Comparative Cognition, using a recently published textbook she coauthored with Mary (Cella) Olmsted. 

This one was a great deal of fun partly because we talked about big issues like theory of mind and where comparative cognition fits in the broader field of psychology.

Thanks again to Red Arms for letting me mash up their music in the closing theme. Buy their music now.

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