Faculty » Rebekah A. Richert


The overarching themes of my research involve examining how cultural factors and children’s developing social cognition influence their understanding of religion, fantasy, and media. In a current research project funded by a grant from the Social Science Research Council’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer (The Role of Prayer in the Development of Religious Cognition), I am examining how parents’ engagement with their young children in shared religious activities, such as prayer and rituals, structures children’s developing concepts of God and supernatural causality. In a second current research project funded by a NSF REESE Collaborative Large Empirical Research grant (Collaborative Research: Using Educational DVDs to Enhance Preschoolers’ STEM Education), I am examining the role of parasocial relationships with screen characters (televised, avatars) for very young children’s learning of STEM concepts, in particular mathematics and engineering related concepts. A third ongoing line of research examines how children’s developing ability to distinguish fantasy from reality is related to their learning of material presented in fantasy contexts (storybooks, DVDs, etc.).


I teach undergraduate and graduate courses on introduction to psychology, cognitive development, social cognition, psychology of religion, media and child development, and developmental research methods.

Selected Publications

Richert, R. A., & Granqvist, P. (2013). Religious and spiritual development in childhood. In R. F. Paloutzian & C. L. Park (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (2nd ed.) (pp. 165-182). New York: Guliford Press.

Richert, R. A., & Smith, E. I. (2012). The essence of soul concepts: How soul concepts influence ethical reasoning across religious affiliation. Religion, Brain, & Behavior, 2(2), 161-176.

Richert, R. A., & Smith, E. I. (2011). Preschoolers’ quarantining of fantasy stories. Child Development, 82(4), 1106-1119.

Richert, R. A., Robb, M., & Smith, E. (2011). Media as social partners: The social nature of young children’s learning from screen media. Child Development, 82(1), 82-95.

Fender, J. G., Richert, R. A., Robb, M. B., & Wartella, E. (2010). Parent teaching focus and toddlers’ learning from an infant DVD. Infant and Child Development, 19 (6), 613 – 627.

Richert, R. A., Robb, M., Fender, J., & Wartella, E. (2010). Word learning from baby videos. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 164(5), 432-437. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2010.24

Richert, R. A., & Smith, E. I. (2010). The role of religious concepts in the evolution of human cognition. In U. Frey (Ed), The nature of God: Evolution and religion (pp. 93-110). Antwerp, Belgium: Tectum.

Richert, R. A., Shawber, A., Hoffman, R., & Taylor, M. (2009). Learning from fantasy and real characters in preschool and kindergarten. Journal of Cognition and Development, 10(1-2), 1-26.

Richert, R. A., & Harris, P. L. (2008). Dualism revisited: Body vs. mind vs. soul. Journal of Cognition & Culture, 8, 99-115.

Richert, R. A. (2006). The ability to distinguish ritual actions in children. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 18, 144-165.

Richert, R. A., & Harris, P. L. (2006). The ghost in my body: Children’s developing concept of the soul. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 6, 409-427. (Richert: 80%; Harris, Harvard University: 20%)

Richert, R. A., & Barrett, J. L. (2005). Do you see what I see? Young children’s assumptions about God’s perceptual abilities. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 15, 283 - 295.

Richert, R. A., & Lillard, A. S. (2004). Observers’ proficiency at identifying pretense based on behavioral cues. Cognitive Development, 19, 223-240.

Richert, R. A., & Lillard, A. S. (2002). Children’s understanding of the knowledge prerequisites of drawing and pretending. Developmental Psychology, 38, 1004-1015.

Barrett, J. L., Richert, R. A., & Dreisenga, A. (2001). God’s beliefs vs. mom’s: The development of natural and non-natural agent concepts. Child Development, 71(1), 50-65.