How do we develop minds that can reflect, reason, and self-regulate?

I use developmental, experimental, individual differences and meta-analytic methods to study executive control and reasoning. I am particularly interested in the various ways that others (e.g., peers, parents, and teachers) influence these processes. Decades of research have illuminated the neurocognitive changes that support the development of higher cognitive processes like executive control and reasoning. However, children don’t develop in isolation; they develop in a rich sociocultural context with people influencing them in myriad ways, for example through what they say and how they act. By bringing together core topics in psychology that have traditionally been studied in isolation (social cognition, language and conceptual development, and executive processes) my work is shedding new light on the development, diversity, and flexibility of these higher cognitive processes.

I am funded by an individual NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (sponsor: Yuko Munakata), and am conducting my research in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado – Boulder. I completed my Ph.D. in developmental psychology at the Institute of Child Development in Minnesota, my B.A. in psychology at York University in Toronto, and also studied philosophy at the University of Toronto.

Lines of Research

Influences of social behavior on developing executive control and reasoning

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-5-30-25-pmYoung children are quick learners and rapidly acquire rich knowledge about their social world. How do social contexts and knowledge influence how children use higher cognitive processes? I have found that young children show more self-control and value it more if they believe their group members do. They are also more likely to demonstrate logical and social reasoning abilities when provided with relevant social information. Collectively, this work suggests that social contexts and knowledge may play a key role in the development of executive control and reasoning.

Doebel, S. & Munakata, Y. (in press). Group influences on self-control: Children delay gratification and value it more when their in-group delays and their out-group doesn’t. Psychological Science.
Doebel, S., Michaelson, L. E., & Munakata, Y. (in press). Beyond personal control: The role of developing self-control abilities in the behavioral constellation of deprivation. Invited commentary to appear in Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
Doebel, S., Rowell, S. F., & Koenig, M. A. (2016). Young children detect and avoid logically inconsistent sources: The importance of communicative context and executive function. Child Development, 87, 1956-1970.
Doebel, S. & Koenig, M. A. (2013). Children’s use of moral behavior in selective trust: Discrimination versus learning. Developmental Psychology, 49, 462-469.

Influences of language on developing executive control

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-4-30-28-pmChildren develop the ability to self-regulate while immersed in environments rich with linguistic input from parents, teachers, and peers. How does this input influence developing executive control processes? I was awarded an NRSA postdoctoral grant from NICHD to address this question. Specifically, I have been testing the hypothesis that language supports aspects of thought that make controlled behavior possible: representation of conflict between competing goals, and the ability to anticipate and plan for the future. In meta-analytic and experimental work I have found evidence that linguistic input that highlights conflict between goals supports children’s executive control performance. In experimental and individual differences work I  have also found that language helps children engage executive control proactively. These findings suggest specific mechanisms through which language could shape the development of executive processes.

Doebel, S. & Munakata, Y. (2017). Talking to ourselves to engage control? Testing developmental relations between self-directed speech, cognitive control, and talkativeness. To appear in Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society.
Doebel, S. & Zelazo, P. D. (2016). Seeing conflict and engaging control: Experience with contrastive language benefits executive function in preschoolers. Cognition. 157, 219-226. 
Doebel, S. & Zelazo, P. D. (2015). A meta-analysis of the Dimensional Change Card Sort: Implications for developmental theories and the measurement of executive function in children. Developmental Review, 38, 241-268.
Doebel, S. & Zelazo, P. D. (2013). Bottom-up and top-down dynamics in young children’s executive function: labels aid 3-year-olds’ performance on the Dimensional Change Card Sort. Cognitive Development, 28, 222-232.
Doebel, S., Dickerson, J. P., Hoover, J. D., & Munakata, Y. (in press). Using language to get ready: Labels help children engage proactive control. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Influences of conceptual development on executive control and reasoning

Children grow up in diverse cultural contexts that shape concepts and beliefs that in turn may influence how engage and develop higher cognitive abilities. For example, culturally-influenced concepts and experiences related to agency, choice, and logic may influence children’s use of executive control and reasoning processes.  My work is exploring these possibilities with the goal of discovering flexibility and diversity in how these higher cognitive processes are exercised and develop.

Doebel, S., Michaelson, L. E., & Munakata, Y. (in press). Beyond personal control: The role of developing self-control abilities in the behavioral constellation of deprivation. Invited commentary to appear in Brain and Behavioral Sciences.
Doebel, S., Rowell, S. F., & Koenig, M. A. (2016). Young children detect and avoid logically inconsistent sources: The importance of communicative context and executive function. Child Development, 87, 1956-1970.

Publications

Note: Electronic copies of these journal articles are provided as a professional courtesy for personal use only. These articles are copyrighted by the journals in which they appear. Commercial use or mass reproduction of these articles is prohibited. Please email me for preprints not linked below.

Peer-reviewed Publications

Doebel, S. & Munakata, Y. (in press). Group influences on self-control: Children delay gratification and value it more when their in-group delays and their out-group doesn’t. Psychological Science.

Doebel, S., Michaelson, L. E., & Munakata, Y. (in press). Beyond personal control: The role of developing self-control abilities in the behavioral constellation of deprivation. Invited commentary to appear in Brain and Behavioral Sciences. 

Doebel, S., Dickerson, J. P., Hoover, J. D., & Munakata, Y.  (2017). Using language to get ready: Labels help children engage proactive control. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. PDF

Doebel, S. & Munakata, Y. (2017). Talking to ourselves to engage control? Testing developmental relations between self-directed speech, cognitive control, and talkativeness. To appear in Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society. PDF

Doebel, S., Barker, J., Chevalier, N., Michaelson, L., Fisher, A. V. & Munakata, Y. (2017). Getting ready to use control: Advances in the measurement of young children’s use of proactive control. PLOS ONE. Open Access Publication

Doebel, S. & Zelazo, P. D. (2016). Seeing conflict and engaging control: Experience with contrastive language benefits executive function in preschoolers. Cognition. 157, 219-226. PDF

Doebel, S., Rowell, S. F., & Koenig, M. A. (in press). Young children detect and avoid logically inconsistent sources: The importance of communicative context and executive function. Child Development. 87, 1956-1970. PDF

Doebel, S. & Zelazo, P. D. (2015). A meta-analysis of the Dimensional Change Card Sort: Implications for developmental theories and the measurement of executive function in children. Developmental Review, 38, 241-268. PDF

Doebel, S. & Zelazo, P. D. (2013). Bottom-up and top-down dynamics in young children’s executive function: labels aid 3-year-olds’ performance on the Dimensional Change Card Sort. Cognitive Development, 28, 222-232. PDF

Doebel, S. & Koenig, M. A. (2013). Children’s use of moral behavior in selective trust: Discrimination versus learning. Developmental Psychology, 49, 462-469. PDF

Manuscripts under review, in revision, or in preparation

Doebel, S. Kim, A., Miyake, A., & Munakata, Y. Talking to ourselves to engage control? Testing developmental relations between self-directed speech, cognitive control and talkativeness. Manuscript in preparation.

Doebel, S., Kim, A., Miyake, A., & Munakata, Y. Links between developmental transitions in proactive control and self-directed speech. Manuscript in preparation.

Chapters

Zelazo, P. D. & Doebel, S. (2015). The role of reflection in promoting effective rule use in adolescent self-regulation. In G. Oettingen & P. Gollwitzer (Eds), Self-regulation in adolescence. Cambridge University Press. PDF

Koenig, M. A., & Doebel, S. (2013). Young children’s understanding of unreliability: Evidence for a negativity bias. In M.R. Banaji & S.A. Gelman (Eds.), Navigating the social world: What infants, children, and other species can teach us. New York: Oxford University Press.

Corrow, S. L., Cowell, J., Doebel, S., & Koenig, M. A. (2012). How children understand and use other people as sources of knowledge: Children’s selective use of testimony. In A. Pinkham, T. Kaefer & S. Neuman (Eds.), Knowledge development in early childhood. New York: Guilford Press.

CV

Click here for the most recent version of my CV.

Contact

Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
University of Colorado Boulder
Muenzinger Psychology Building, 345 UCB
1905 Colorado Ave
Boulder, CO 80309

Email: sabine.doebel [at] colorado.edu

Lab: Cognitive Development Center (director: Yuko Munakata)

You can also connect with me on Research Gate or Twitter.