Faculty profile

Charles Kalish

Charles Kalish

Dept. of Educational Psychology
1057 Educational Sciences
(608) 262-0840


Research Keywords

inductive inference, categorization, social cognition, development, culture & cognition


  • Department of Educational Psychology - Learning Sciences & Human Development, Professor
  • Waisman Center, Study of Children’s Thinking
  • Department of Psychology, affiliate

Current Projects

  • Director, Study of Children's Thinking project
  • Co-organizer, Cognitive Development Research Group

Research Collaborators

Representative Classes

Research Statement

My research focuses on inductive inference and causal reasoning—how do we predict the future and learn from experience? One line of research focuses on how children acquire the set of commonsense beliefs that characterize adult thinking. I am particularly interested in children's developing appreciation of physical and intentional causality. Current research explores the role of norms in social cognition. How does children's understanding of rules and obligations develop, and what role does such understanding play in predicting and explaining people's behavior? A second line of research addresses more general processes of categorization and inference. We explore how people use evidence to make category-based inductions, and how beliefs about the nature and origins of categories affect learning and judgment.

The ability to generalize past experience to new situations, to make inductive inferences, is central to what we think of as learning. We want children not just to be able to solve familiar problems, but also to know how to apply their knowledge in new circumstances. I hope that studying the process of generalization will tell us more about how children learn.

Selected Publications

  • Kim, S., & Kalish, C. W. (in press). Children’s Ascriptions of Property Rights With Changes of Ownership. Cognitive Development.

    Lawson, C. A., & Kalish, C. W. (2009). Sample selection and inductive generalization, Memory & Cognition, 22, 651-670.

    Kalish, C. W., & Cornelius, R. (2007). What is to be done? Children’s ascriptions of conventional obligations. Child Development, 78, 859-878.

    Lawson, C. A., & Kalish, C. W. (2006). Inductive Inferences Across Time and Identity: Are Category Members More Alike Than Single Individuals? Journal of Cognition and Development. 7, 233-252.

    Kalish, C. W. (2005). Becoming status conscious: Children’s appreciation of social reality. Philosophical Explorations. 8, 245-263

    Kalish, C. W. & Shiverick, S. A. (2004). Rules and Preferences: Children’s Reasoning About Motives for Behavior. Cognitive Development, 19, 401-416.