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The Project

An international research initiative led by the Evolution and Ontogeny of Cognition and Culture Lab (EVOLearn) and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Problem Space

Historically, academic psychological research has disproportionately sampled white, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic (WEIRD) populations to form generalized theories of learning and cognition. The EVOLearn project seeks to uncover and correct these biases in the field's foundational literature.

My Role

Head Research Assistant 

Project Goals

To establish a collaborative network of international field sites with the goal of examining population and individual-level variables that may impact teaching practices and social learning strategies. 

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To design a multi-task protocol providing accurate and replicable measures of the key project domains of cognitive development and social learning. We also seek to measure key demographic and health factors that are important mediators on cognition and that may be useful for research partners.

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An International Collaborative Design Process

I worked with researchers and principle investigators at collaborating universities and field sites to develop a multi-pronged research plan centered on the Queensland Task (QT), which was first popularized in the 1970s. I worked with the team to update the test protocol for more rigorous and robust ethnographic study.

Field Research

In fall 2018, I worked onsite at a research outpost in Namibia, Africa assisting Dr. Emily Messer. We Focused on testing and administrative work to bring the QT to the San and Himba tribes for further data collection. We partnered with the University of Namibia and worked with the National Commission on Research Science and Technology to be one of the first locations to kickoff international research efforts.

The QT is an extensive nonverbal battery measuring domains of cognition including nonverbal recall, executive function, spatial reasoning and working memory. By explicitly removing language, this task removes the potential confounds of cognitive testing using language in multiple populations worldwide, with varying exposure to language or literacy.

My primary role on the project was to research and restructure the experimental procedure of the QT. I interviewed research professionals, conducted observational studies in partnership with the local children's museum, and designed/produced 3D printed testing components.

Experiment Design

Results

Our team has now brought the redesigned QT protocol to participants in Ghana, Vanuatu, Ecuador, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Fiji. Research is ongoing. The number of respondents is expected to triple in size over the next 3-5 years.

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