Faculty » Rebekah A. Richert
Based on her training in cognitive development, Dr. Richert has developed two primary lines of research into how cultural factors and children’s developing social cognition influences their understanding of religion, fantasy, and media. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Templeton Foundation.
Cognition and Religion
According to various theorists, some aspects of religious thinking emerge seemingly naturally in the course of development, often precluding formal instruction. Therefore, studying religious thought in children, before they have received doctrinal instruction, may give us insight into the default thought processes of the mind and the cognitive tools to which children have access as they develop. However, religious instruction also presents an important form of cultural input. Therefore, studying the development of religious concepts provides a unique framework for studying the interaction between cognitive predispositions and cultural input. In the past, I have studied children’s developing concept of God. Currently, we are conducting research into the role religious rituals play in the development of religious concepts, into children’s developing concept of the soul, and into the effects of being raised in a home where parents differ in their degree of religiosity.
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., & Smith, E. (2009). Cognitive foundations in the development of a religious mind. In E. Voland & W. Schievenhövel (Eds.), Biological evolution of religious mind and behavior (pp. 181-193). New York: Springer.
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, 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.
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.
Barrett, J. L., & Richert, R. A. (2003). Anthropomorphism or preparedness? Exploring children’s God concepts. Review of Religious Research, 44, 300-312.
Barrett, J. L., Newman, R., & Richert, R. A. (2003). When seeing is not believing: Children’s understanding of humans’ and non-humans’ use of background knowledge in interpreting visual displays. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 3, 91-108.
Fantasy, Media and Cognitive Development
Building on previous research into children’s understanding of pretend intentions and actions, I have been examining the factors that influence whether preschool children will transfer information learned in fantasy stories to real-world situation. In a newer line of research, we have begun studying the influence of media exposure on cognitive development by focusing on how children view information learned in media contexts and the effectiveness of using different forms of media as educational tools. One study is examining whether 12- to 24-month-old children learn from baby videos. In a second study, we are manipulating in the media context (e.g., reality status of characters, interactivity of characters) to examine the conditions under which preschool children learn from screen media. In a third study, we are beginning to explore how interactive media may provide a unique kind of scaffolding to learning for kindergarten-aged children.
Richert, R. A., & Smith, E. I. (in press). Preschoolers’ quarantining of fantasy stories. Child Development.
Richert, R. A., Robb, M., & Smith, E. (in press). Media as social partners: The social nature of young children’s learning from screen media. Special issue of Child Development: Raising Healthy Children: Translating Child Development Research into Practice.
Fender, J. G, Richert, R. A., Robb, M. B., & Wartella, E. (in press). Parent teaching focus and toddlers’ learning from an infant DVD. Infant and Child Development.
Richert, R. A., Robb, M., Fender, J., & Wartella, E. (2010). Word learning from baby videos. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 164(5). doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2010.24
Wartella, E., Richert, R. A., & Robb, M. B. (2010). Babies, television and videos: How did we get here? Developmental Review, 30, 116-127.
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.
Robb, M., Richert, R., & Wartella, E. (2009). Just a talking book? Word learning from watching baby videos. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27(1), 27-45.
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.