Dr. Marianella Casasola, Professor
Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs
Director, Cornell Infant Studies and Play & Learning Laboratory
1300B Martha Van Rensselaer Hall/ 35 Beebe Hall
Department of Human Development
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: (607) 254-1388
Current Professional Activities:
Member, Society for Research in Child development Member, International Society on Infant Studies Member, American Psychological Association Member, Cognitive Development Society Guest Reviewer, Infancy Guest Reviewer, Child Development Current Research Activities.
My research program focuses on infant cognitive development and early word learning. I am particularly interested in the interaction between cognition and language acquisition during the first two years of development. In collaboration with colleagues and my students, I examine infants’ ability to discriminate the spatial relations between objects as well as their ability to group these events into spatial categories. A portion of our research explores the degree to which infants’ perceptual and cognitive abilities provide them with the meanings expressed across language-specific semantic categories. The goal of this line of research is to document not only which spatial concepts infants understand (and when they acquire these concepts), but also to delineate the processes that guide how infants acquire this understanding. We also are exploring how specific linguistic input can aid infants in forming spatial categories that they do not form in the absence of language. In related research, we also are exploring how language can direct infants’ attention to the objects versus location in a dynamic event. More recently, we have begun to explore these issues with toddlers and preschool-age children. Finally, we have been studying whether infants learn to comprehend visual gestures as labels for objects earlier and more easily than spoken labels. In addition, my students and I are exploring whether presenting a visual gesture with a spoken word aids infants in comprehending the spoken word. In sum, my students and I are conducting numerous experimental studies that explore developmental changes in infant cognitive development, how these abilities are recruited in the acquisition of language, and whether language can influence how infants organize their world. In addition to studying how infants learn, I also enjoy running, swimming, playing piano and cello. Among my most favorite activities are spending time with my family.
Ph.D. 2000 – University of Texas at Austin Psychology
M.A. 1995 – University of Texas at Austin Psychology
B.A. 1992 – University of California, Berkeley Psychology & Spanish Literature
HD2830 – Research Methods in Human Development
HD3460 – Serious Fun! The Role of Play Throughout Development
HD4340 – Current Topics in Cognitive Development
HD6310 – Advanced Topics in Cognitive Development
Current Lab Members:
Valerie Bambha | Ph.D. Candidate
Valerie graduated from William & Mary in 2019 with a B.S. in Psychology and a Minor in Linguistics and is currently a second-year PhD student in Dr. Marianella Casasola’s Play and Learning Lab. She is broadly interested in studying play as a learning experience that fosters children’s development of complex cognitive and perceptual skills, as well as in the interplay of various domains of development throughout childhood. Her work with Dr. Casasola centers on how infants’ acquisition of mental rotation, a fundamental spatial skill, is influenced by non-spatial factors such as visual short-term memory, visual processing biases, and motor development.
David Tompkins | Ph.D. Candidate