Van de Walle, Gretchen
Phone: 973-353-3945, ext. 237
Ph.D., Cornell University, 1997
Professional Summary/CV [.PDF]
Department of Psychology, Arts and Sciences, Newark; Rutgers
Areas of Interest
Conceptual development and reasoning about objects, animals, and people, Role of language acquisition in conceptual development, Development of verbal and non-verbal numerical competence in toddlers and preschoolers, Development of object perception, Syntactic and semantic acquisition in mono- and bilingual children.
Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Development, Perceptual Development, Language Acquisition, Conceptual Structure.
Memberships and Professional Service
Member of Society for Research in Child Development, International Society for Infant Studies, Cognitive Development Society, American Psychological Society; Ad-hoc reviewer of journals, Child Development, Cognition, Developmental Psychology, Developmental Science, Journal of Cognition and Development, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Grants, Honors, and Awards
Principal Investigator, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, "The Role of Motion in the Animate/Inanimate Distinction," 2003-2005; Principal Investigator, National Institute of Mental Health, "The Role of Word Learning in Categorization and Individuation," 1999-2001; Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, 1991-1994; Fyssen Foundation Fellowship, 1992-1993.
Academic Interests and Plans
My interest in early conceptual development began when I worked as an undergraduate research assistant in an infant perception lab at Swarthmore College. After obtaining my Ph.D. at Cornell University, I completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at NYU before coming to Rutgers-Newark in the Fall of 1998. My research investigates the perceptual and conceptual information infants employ in coming to better understand the environment around them and how the early acquisition of language influences this understanding.
For example, I am interested in how infants learn to distinguish broad, ontological categories such as animate vs. inanimate objects and what they know about these categories. One of the newest research projects, a collaboration with my graduate student Diana Del Console, employs an eye-tracking system to ask whether infants understand that the behavior of animate objects like people or animals is meaningfully directed at the surrounding environment in a way that is quite distinct from that of inanimates. I am also interested in how children learn to trace specific individual objects over time and occlusion—an ability so effortless and so basic to adults that we rarely give it a second thought. Most recently, in collaboration with my colleague Jennifer Austin and her graduate student Cassandra Foursha, have begun to investigate toddlers’ understanding of how word order conveys meaning in sentences. We hope soon to expand this research to investigate syntactic knowledge in children who are in the process of acquiring two different languages.