Sarnecka Cognitive Development Lab

in the Department of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California-Irvine

We are happy ninjas writing in the forest.

Sept. 14, 2017. Writing is hard. It just feels so much harder than all the other things one could be doing. And yet as academics, it's the most important thing we do. In our lab, we are big believers in writing every day, but we all go through periods where that feels easy, and other periods where it feels insurmountably difficult. One of the tricks several of us use to deal with internal writing resistance is the Forest app. It uses a pomodoro-type system, meaning that you decide to write for a fixed period of time (maybe just 10 minutes), and you set the timer, and do it. You could use any kind of timer to do this, and there are even some free pomodoro-timer apps that do it too; we just enjoy the Forest app because it grows a little tree while you work. Using a timer helps us work through our internal resistance by committing to little increments of just 5 or 10 minutes of writing at a time. (Actually, Barbara likes to do 5 minutes at a time, and one drawback of the Forest app is that the smallest increment it will allow is 10.) We call this NINJA WRITING because it is stealthy and sneaky in overcoming the writing resistance. This month, with the laziness of late summer draining our productivity away, several of us have rediscovered the forest app and are enjoying growing our little forests again.

Far-away people are interested in our work!

Sept. 8, 2017. Prof. Sarnecka was invited to present our work at a meeting on Linguistic and Cognitive Influences on Numerical Cognition at Tuebingen University in Germany. It was a great honor, and Tuebingen is so beautiful!


Medieval buildings!

Flower-lined canals!

Our lab logo, displayed before Barbara's talk.

Barbara's talk

Live classical music!

Cobblestone streets!

Tea and knitting stores!

It's hot outside...

Sept. 4, 2017. September is the hottest month in Southern California. It's really quite oppressively hot. So instead of going outside, why not stay in an air-conditioned office and read witty signs from last spring's march for science?

Writing can happen anywhere.

Aug. 9, 2017. Here is Prof. Sarnecka's view from her 'writing desk' at her neighborhood dog park, while her dogs play and socialize (that's Athena in the foreground and Kipper near the tree. Their friend Bean, a chocolate lab, can be seen in the distance.) Sometimes we can get stuck thinking that we're going to write at a particular place and time, and if that time and place doesn't work out, we feel like maybe we can't write that day at all. But if we keep an open mind, we may find that it's still possible to write today, wherever we happen to be.

Emily rocks the hackathon!

July 31-Aug. 2, 2017. Grad student Emily Sumner traveled to the Games for Change Festival in NYC and participated in their first annual Virtual Reality Brainjam Hackathon. Emily teamed with programmers and artists and in 48 hours created a game called "Shima", a virtual reality measure of risk propensity. In this game, you are a photographer on an island inhabited by new species of animals. Your goal is to get as close as you can to each animal and take their picture. The closer you get, the more points you get. But if you get too close, the animal gets scared and runs away. Emily's team WON the hackathon and got to present their game at the Games for Change Festival. Here is a link to a video of their game, and below is a picture of Emily (at the mic) and her team presenting their game on the huge festival stage. Congratulations, Emily!

Welcome Families from Northwood Montessori!

July 19, 2017. This week, research assistants Eden, Hoang, Soina and Kelly visited Northwood Montessori to tell families about our lab and sign children up for our studies. Thank you for letting us visit, we look forward to meeting more families later this week! Be sure to stop by to pick up a teddy bear or a slinky!

How awesome is our lab?!

July 11, 2017. It's summertime. But is our lab quiet and deserted? Do crickets play their lonely notes as tumbleweeds roll down the hallway? No indeed--our lab is full of life! We have a great bunch of research assistants, including both new and experienced students, and we are continuing to advance the field of cognitive development while the rest of the world relaxes on the beach.

Yay, Peer Review!

June 23, 2017.

Prof. Sarnecka is in Washington, D.C., reviewing grant proposals for the NIH (National Institutes of Health). The scientific peer review process really is a wonderful thing. It can be tempting to feel depressed about the state of the world or the working of the federal government, but the way that scientific research dollars are allocated is a model of how things should work. A bunch of experts get together and carefully read every part of every proposal, and discuss them at length, and decide together which ones have the most scientific and technical value. Taxpayers should feel good about how carefully and thoughtfully their money is spent.


Saturday, May 27 . . . What's so special about the number 22? It's the number we were all celebrating in lab meeting this week. It is the number of kids recruited and tested IN ONE DAY by the dream team of Elisa, Julia and Paula, led by awesome graduate student Ashley. (They tested another 10 kids on Sunday, for a total of 32 over a single weekend.) WAY TO GO, TEAM!

UROP 2017!

Saturday, May 20 was the annual conference of the UCI Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program! Our lab was well represented, and several of our posters were chosen to go up on display in Aldrich Hall. Yay!

Above: Suttera, Julia and Alleah presenting their Infant World Domination study.

Above: Gabby and Emily with their study on preschooler's propensity to take risks.

Above: Anna, Justine, Hoang and Natalie with a study on preschoolers' expectations about the behavior of high-ranking individuals.

Above: Emily, Amy and Shirley with a new way of measuring measuring individual differences in young children's risk propensity.

SoCal 2017!

May 13, 2017. A bunch of our researchers drove down to UCSD for SoCal 2017, hosted by Prof. David Barner's Language and Development Lab. (Thanks for hosting!) And congratulations to all the presenters at SoCal, from our lab and all the other labs, for sharing their work and embiggening everyone's knowledge! Go Team Science!

Above: Amy and Shirley presenting their poster at SoCal.

May 10, 2017. This week Prof. Sarnecka was in Sweden, presenting our research at the Fifth Annual Gothenburg AMBLE symposium on reading, mathematics and the developing brain. Go, Worldwide Team Science!

Welcome, Professor Orangebottom!

April 28, 2017. Our lab meeting was visited by distinguished scholar Professor Orangebottom, who helped the RAs practice giving "elevator talk" summaries of their research projects. Now everyone is ready to represent the lab at the spring research conferences.

Rejection Party!

April 21, 2017. Some of us in the lab have experienced multiple rejections lately. Grants not funded, fellowships not awarded, papers and conference submissions getting the big thumbs down. So we took some time last week to celebrate all of our wonderful rejections and reflect on how lucky we are to be able to spend our time doing science.