Rachel L. Severson, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the K.I.D. Studies Centre in the Department of Psychology at University of British Columbia. She received a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Washington (2010) and was a Fulbright Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (a Norwegian Centre of Excellence) at University of Oslo (2010-2011).

My research examines, from a developmental perspective, how people think about others’ minds. From a young age children understand other people as experiencing agents with goals, desires, emotions, beliefs, and thoughts, and they use this understanding to reason socially (e.g., who might be a credible source of knowledge) and morally (e.g., whether one has moral standing or can be held morally accountable). What’s particularly fascinating is that children (and adults) also extend minds (and human internal states more generally) to non-human entities, such as inanimate nature and technology—what is often referred to as anthropomorphism. The overarching aim of my research program is to elucidate the nature, causes, and consequences of anthropomorphism within the context of social cognition more broadly.

NPR (KPLU) story on Dr. Severson's research

Select Publications
Severson, R. L., & Lemm, K. (in press). Kids see human too: Adapting an individual differences measure of anthropomorphism for a child sample. Journal of Cognition and Development.

Kahn, P. H., Jr., Kanda, T., Ishiguro, H., Freier, N. G., Severson, R. L., Gill, B. T., Ruckert, J. H., & Shen, S. (2012). “Robovie, you’ll have to go into the closet now”: Children’s social and moral relationships with a humanoid robot. Developmental Psychology, 48, 303-314. [download pdf]

Severson, R. L., & Carlson, S. M. (2010). Behaving as or behaving as if? Children's conceptions of personified robots and the emergence of a new ontological category. Neural Networks (Special Issue on Social Cognition: From Babies to Robots), 23, 1099-1103. [download pdf]

Severson, R. L., & Kahn, P. H., Jr. (2010). In the orchard: Farm worker children’s moral and environmental reasoning. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 31, 249-256. [download pdf]
Kahn, P. H., Jr., Severson, R. L., & Ruckert, J. H. (2009). The human relationship with nature and technological nature. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 37-42. [download pdf]
Kahn, P. H., Jr., Friedman, B., Gill, B. T., Hagman, J., Severson, R. L., Freier, N. G., Feldman, E. N., Carrère, S., & Stolyar, A. (2008). A plasma display window? – The shifting baseline problem in a technologically-mediated natural world. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28, 192-199. [download pdf]
Friedman, B., Kahn, P. H., Jr., Hagman, J., Severson, R. L., & Gill, B. (2006). The watcher and the watched: Social judgments about privacy in a public place. Human-Computer Interaction, 21, 235-272. [download pdf]

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