I study how humans reason about complex systems.
One line of my work examines how acknowledging instability, or lack of robustness of causal and categorical relationships across background circumstances affects learning, inductive inference, language, and decision-making.
Another line of my research examines how people reason about agents embedded in complex social structures that constrain or facilitate agents’ behaviors, depending on their position within the structure. I study how reasoning about social structures develops, how different cognitive mechanisms contribute to it, what behavioral consequences it has, how language both shapes and reflects it, and finally, how understanding of social structures influences people's intuitions about social justice.
During 2020/2021 I am on leave from CSUEB Psychology Department, working with Dr. Clark Barrett on the Geography of Philosophy project as a research associate at UCLA, and running developmental research projects as a visiting researcher at UC Berkeley in collaboration with Dr. Alison Gopnik (Cognitive Development Lab) and Dr. Mahesh Srinivasan (Language and Cognitive Development Lab). I also continue collaborating with my postdoctoral mentor Dr. Tania Lombrozo on a range of topics, from early representations of unstable causal systems to the consequences of engaging in structural explanation for reasoning about socioeconomic inequalities.
I used to go by Nadya Vasilyeva.
[pronouns: they/them (preferred); she/her]