Melissa Koenig

Associate Professor
Ph.D., 2002, University of Texas at Austin

Institute of Child Development
174 ChDev
51 East River Pkwy

Curriculum Vitae

Language acquisition, cognitive development, pragmatics and social cognition, word learning.

Early Language and Experience Lab

My research focuses on how children acquire knowledge from other people.  Currently, this question takes two directions: First, I am interested in the social factors that influence their learning about the world and second, I study how children develop a pragmatic understanding of language.

(a) How do infants and young children understand and exploit the distinctive characteristics of other people as sources of information? How do children balance the potential benefit of learning and the risk of being misinformed? When do infants appreciate the possibility that an utterance might be false? Do children and adults evaluate speakers differently? Our research addresses these questions through a range of projects. We are especially interested in how children identify candidate information sources, children’s selective trust, notions of reliability, source monitoring, and children’s understanding of expertise.

(b) How do we come to understand the internal significance of language? Meaning is connected to speaker-oriented notions like saying, asking, doubting, believing, supposing and so on. The relation between what sentences mean and the beliefs, questions and doubts that speakers express is complex and subtle. How do children learn about the many pragmatic functions of their language? Our research looks especially at children between the ages of 1-5 and uses multiple methodologies.

Selected Publications

  1. Sher, I., Koenig, M. A., & Rustichini, A., (in press).  Children’s Strategic Theory of Mind.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Heatherington, C., Hendrickson, C., & Koenig, M., (2014). Reducing an In-Group Bias in Preschool Children: The Impact of Moral Behavior.  Developmental Science, doi:10.1111/desc.12192.

    Koenig, M. A., & Stephens, E., (2014). Characterizing Children’s Responsiveness to Cues of Speaker Trustworthiness: Two Proposals.  In E. Robinson and S. Einav (Eds.), Trust and Skepticism: Children's Selective Learning from Testimony. Psychology Press: Cambridge, UK.

    Reifen, M., Federico, C., M., Lyons, K., Ludeke, S., & Koenig, M. A. (2014).  Heralding the Authoritarian?  Orientation towards Authority in Early Childhood.  Psychological Science.

    Sera, M., Cole, C., Oromendia, M., & Koenig, M., (2014). Object familiarity facilitates foreign word learning in preschoolers.  Language Learning and Development.

    Carlson, S., Koenig, M., & Harms, M., (2013).  Theory of Mind.  WIREs Cognitive Science. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science. Doi: 10.1002/wcs.1232

    Doebel, S., & Koenig, M. A., (2013).  Children’s Use of an Informant’s Negative Moral Behavior: Discrimination versus Learning.  Developmental Psychology, 49 (3), 462-469.

    Koenig, M. A., & Sabbagh, M., (2013).  Selective social learning: New Perspectives on Learning from Others.  Developmental Psychology, 49 (3), 399-403.

    Koenig, M. A., & Doebel, S. (2013).  Children’s Understanding of Unreliability: Evidence for a Negativity Bias.  In S. Gelman & M. Banaji (Eds.), Navigating the Social World: What infants, children and other species can teach us.  pp. 235-240. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

    Koenig, M. A., & Cole, C., (2013).  Early word learning.  In D. Reisberg (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Psychology.  Oxford University Press: Oxford.

    Lyons, K., & Koenig, M., (2013).  The Development of Social Cognition.  In D. Roberts & D. Penn (Eds.), Social Cognition in Schizophrenia: From Evidence to Treatment.  Oxford University Press: Oxford.

    Koenig, M. A., (2012).  Beyond Semantic Accuracy: Preschoolers Evaluate a Speaker’s Reasons.  Child Development, 83, 1051-1063.

    Koenig, M. A., & Woodward, A. L., (2012).  Toddlers learn words in a foreign language: The role of native vocabulary knowledge. Journal of Child Language, 39, 322-337.

    Cole, C., Harris, P. L., & Koenig, M. A., (2012).  Entitled to Trust? Philosophical Frameworks and Evidence from Children.  Analyse & Kritik, 34, 195-216.

    Harris, P.L., Corriveau, K., Pasquini, E., Koenig, M.A., Fusaro, M.,  & Clement, F. (2012). Credulity and the development of selective trust in early childhood.  In M. J. Beran, J. L., Brandl, J. Perner & J. Proust, (Eds.) Foundations of Metacognition, pp. 193-210. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

    Koenig, M. A., & Jaswal, V. K., (2011).  Characterizing Children’s Expectations about Expertise and Incompetence: Halo or Pitchfork Effects?   Child Development, 82(5), 1634-1647.