Sarnecka Cognitive Development Lab

What We Do    |   How to Participate    |   Researchers

Barbara Sarnecka

I am interested in how people reason, and in how the mind is put together during childhood. Most of my work to date has looked at how young children acquire number concepts. More recent work focuses on the development of social cognition, as well as on adult moral reasoning and risk perception. I feel lucky to live and work in Southern California, which is home to an exceptionally diverse population. This allows me to work with students and research participants from a wide variety of cultural/ethnic, linguistic and socio-economic backgrounds. Finally, I am a strong advocate for open science. I try to use my own work as an author, reviewer and editor to support noncommercial, open-access publishers whenever possible.

Click here to download my CV


Journal articles

Thomas, A.J., Stanford, P.K. & Sarnecka, B.W., (2016). No Child Left Alone: Moral Judgments about Parents Affect Estimates of Risk to Children (Corrected). Collabra, 2(1):12, pp.1-15, DOI: [full text]

Sarnecka, B.W. (2015). Learning to Represent Exact Numbers. Synthese, 1-18. Published online 27 August 2015. [preprint] [journal version]

Thomas, A.J. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2015). Exploring the relation between people’s theories of intelligence and beliefs about brain development. Frontiers in Psychology: Cognition. Published online 03 July 2015. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00921 [full text]

Negen, J. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2014). Is there really a link between exact-number knowledge and approximate number system acuity in young children? British Journal of Developmental Psychology. Published online 18 November 2014. PMID:25403910 [HTML] [full text PDF]

Cohen, D.J. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2014). Children's number-line estimation shows development of measurement skills (not number representations). Developmental Psychology [online] [pdf]

Goldman, M.C., Negen, J. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2014). Are bilingual children better at ignoring perceptually misleading information? A novel test. Developmental Science [online] [pdf]

House, B.R., Henrich, J., Sarnecka, B.W. & Silk, J.B. (2013). The development of contingent reciprocity in children. Evolution & Human Behavior, 34, 86-93. [online] [pdf]

Slusser, E. Ditta, A., & Sarnecka, B. W. (2013). Connecting numbers to discrete quantification: A step in the child's construction of integer concepts. Cognition, 129, 31-41. PMID: 23831562. [online] [pdf]

Sarnecka, B.W., & Wright, C.E. (2013). The idea of an exact number: Children's understanding of cardinality and equinumerosity. Cognitive Science PMID: 23672476 [online] [pdf]

Negen, J. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2012). Number-concept acquisition and general vocabulary development. Child Development, 83, 2019-2027. PMID: 22803603 [online] [pdf]

Negen, J. & Sarnecka, B.W. & Lee, M.D. (2012). An Excel sheet for inferring number-knower levels from Give-N data. Behavior Research Methods, 44, 57-66. PMID: 21789732 [online] [pdf]

Slusser, E. & Sarnecka, B. W. (2011). Find the picture of eight turtles: A link between children's counting and their knowledge of number-word semantics. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 110, 38-51. PMC3105118. [online] [pdf]

Lee, M. D. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2011). Number-knower levels in young children: Insights from Bayesian modeling. Cognition, 120, 391-402. PMC3116985. [online] [pdf]

Lee, M. D. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2010). A model of knower-level behavior in number-concept development. Cognitive Science, 34, 51-67. PMC2836733. [online] [pdf]

Sarnecka, B. W. & Lee, M. D. (2009). Levels of number knowledge in early childhood. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 103, 325-337. PMC3127737. [online] [pdf]

Sarnecka, B. W. & Carey, S. (2008) How counting represents number: What children must learn and when they learn it. Cognition, 108, 662-674. PMID: 18572155. [online] [pdf]

Gelman, S.A., Goetz, P.J., Sarnecka, B.W., & Flukes, J. (2008) Generic language in parent-child conversations. Language Learning and Development, 4, 1-31. PMC3137552. [online] [pdf]

Sarnecka, B.W., Kamenskaya, V.G., Yamana, Y., Ogura, T., & Yudovina, J.B. (2007). From grammatical number to exact numbers: Early meanings of "one," "two," and "three" in English, Russian, and Japanese. Cognitive Psychology, 55, 136-168. PMC2322941. [online] [pdf]

Sarnecka, B.W. & Gelman, S.A. (2004). Six does not just mean a lot: Preschoolers see number words as specific. Cognition, 92, 329-352. PMC3143070. [online] [pdf]

Book chapters and review articles

Sarnecka, B.W. (2016). How numbers are like the earth (and unlike faces, loitering or knitting). In D. Barner & A. Baron (Eds.), Core Knowledge and Conceptual Change NY: Oxford University Press. [PDF]

Sarnecka, B.W. & Goldman, M.C. & Slusser, E.B. (2015). How counting leads to children's first representations of exact, large numbers. In R. Cohen Kadosh & A. Dowker (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Numerical Cognition NY: Oxford University Press. [Oxford Handbooks Online] [pdf]

Sarnecka, B.W. (2014). On the relation between grammatical number and cardinal numbers in development. Frontiers in Psychology: Developmental Psychology [online]

Sarnecka, B.W. & Negen, J. (2012). A number of options: Rationalist, constructivist and Bayesian insights into the development of exact-number concepts. In J.B. Benson (Serial Ed.) & F. Xu & T. Kushnir (Vol. Eds.), Rational constructivism in cognitive development (pp. 237-268) Oxford, UK: Elsevier Inc: Academic Press. ISBN 9780123979193. [pdf]

Carey, S. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2006). The development of human conceptual representations. M. Johnson & Y. Munakata (Eds.), Processes of Change in Brain and Cognitive Development: Attention and Performance XXI, 473-496 [pdf]

Conference proceedings & presentations

Thomas, A.J., Abramyan, M., Lukowski, A., Thomsen, L. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2016). Preferring the Mighty to the Meek: Toddlers Prefer Novel Dominant Agents. Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society Red Hook, NY: Curran Associates, Inc. [pdf]

Goldman, M.C., Negen, J., Anaya, T. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2013, April). Numerical knowledge of low- versus higher-income bilingual preschoolers. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA. [poster]

Negen, J., Goldman, M., Anaya, T. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2013, April). ANS acuity and learning number words from number books and games. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA. [poster]

Negen, J. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2011). Analogue magnitudes and knower levels: Re-visiting the variability argument. Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Red Hook, NY: Curran Associates. [pdf]

Negen, J. & Sarnecka, B.W. (2010). Young children's number-word knowledge predicts their performance on a nonlinguistic number task. In N. Taatgen (Ed.), Proceedings of the 31st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Red Hook, NY: Curran Associates. [pdf]

Slusser, E. & Sarnecka, B. (2009). Children's partial understanding of number words. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Denver, Colorado. [poster][handout]

Slusser, E. & Sarnecka, B. (2007). When do young children connect number words to discrete quantification? Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Boston, Massachusetts.[poster][handout]

Sarnecka, B., & Cerutti, A. (2005) Specificity, direction, and unit-of-one: Piecing together the logic of number words [Abstract]. 4th Biennial Meeting of the Cognitive Development Society, San Diego, CA. [pdf]

Sarnecka, B.W., Kamenskaya, V.G., Ogura, T., Yamana, Y., & Yudovina, J.B. (2004). Language as lens: Plurality marking and numeral learning in English, Japanese, and Russian. In Proceedings of the 28th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press. [Preliminary results from the study that was later published as Sarnecka et al., 2007] [pdf]

Commentaries, etc.

Sarnecka, B. W. (2008) SEVEN does not mean NATURAL NUMBER, and children know more than you think. [Commentary on Rips, et al.] Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 31, 668. [pdf of article & commentaries]

Sarnecka, B.W. (2006) [Review of the book Language development across childhood and adolescence by Ruth A. Berman, Ed.] Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 28, 535-537. [pdf]

Sarnecka, B.W. (2002). [Review of the book Human language and our reptilian brain: The subcortical bases of speech, syntax and thought by Philip Lieberman]. Journal of Cognition and Culture 2, 161-162. [pdf]

Sarnecka, B.W. (2002). [Review of the book Language and gesture byDavid McNeill, Ed.]. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 2, 81-82. [pdf]

Sarnecka, B.W. (2001). [Review of the book The neurolinguistics of bilingualism: An introduction by Franco Fabbro]. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 1, 359-360. [pdf]