How do we develop reasoning, self-regulating minds?

Young children seem to live in the moment and to be driven by impulses, but with age they show dramatic improvements in their abilities to reflect, reason, and self-regulate. What changes? Decades of research have illuminated the neurocognitive substrates supporting these abilities. However, the mind doesn’t develop in isolation; it develops in a rich sociocultural context that influences it in myriad ways. The goal of my research is to understand how. My work brings together core topics in developmental psychology that have traditionally been studied in isolation: social cognition, language and conceptual development, and executive processes. A key principle underlying my approach is that advances in knowledge are most likely when development is studied in context and with consideration of how systems interact and influence one another across time.

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 Processes 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 does this social knowledge influence developing executive and reasoning processes?  I’ve found that young children show more self-control if they believe their group members do, and reason more effectively when information is presented in a social communicative context. This work suggests that how higher cognitive processes manifest may be context dependent and may vary depending on how social cognitive knowledge is engaged.

Doebel, S. & Munakata, Y. Group influences on self-control: Children delay gratification and value it more when their in-group delays and their out-group doesn’t. Manuscript under review.
Doebel, S., Michaelson, L. E., & Munakata, Y. 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.
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 Functions

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 the exercise and development of executive control processes? I was awarded an NRSA postdoctoral grant from NICHD to address this question. I have found that providing children with goal-relevant linguistic input aids executive control. Moreover, providing such linguistic input prior to a task helps children engage executive functions proactively, in advance of needing to use them. My ongoing work is examining whether these effects occur via self-directed speech and/or through interaction with other cognitive 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. (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. Using language to get ready: Labels help children engage proactive control. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Doebel, S., Barker, J., Chevalier, N., Michaelson, L., & Munakata, Y. Getting ready to use control: Advances in the measurement of young children’s use of proactive control. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Interactions Between Conceptual Change and Executive Control in Development

We usually think of thoughts and the processes that act upon them as separable. As such, the acquisition of conceptual knowledge and executive processes are typically studied in isolation. However, these processes likely influence each other in development. For example, logical concepts like negation and inconsistency may allow one to detect and represent conflict between goals, supporting the engagement of control. Conversely, executive functions may support nascent reasoning processes. I’m exploring relations between these and other concepts and the engagement and development of executive functions and related skills.

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. & Zelazo, P. D. (2016). Experience with contrastive language facilitates executive function in preschoolers. Cognition, 157, 219-226.

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. (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., 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., Barker, J., Chevalier, N., Michaelson, L., Fisher, Anna V. & Munakata, Y. (in press). 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. & Munakata, Y. Group influences on self-control: Children delay gratification and value it more when their in-group delays and their out-group doesn’t. Manuscript under review.

Doebel, S., Dickerson, J. P., Hoover, J. D., & Munakata, Y.  Using language to get ready: Labels help children engage proactive control. Manuscript under review.

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.