Rebecca Williamson

Ph.D., Stanford University, 2005
Assistant Professor
Member, Developmental Psychology Program
754 Urban Life

A quick and efficient way to learn new information is through the examples and instruction of other people. Social learning allows one to avoid the time-consuming process of trial-and-error by capitalizing on the hard-won experiences of others. My research focuses on how people use social learning mechanisms in everyday activities to acquire new skills and information. My goal is to identify general trends from these foundational learning processes that can be applied across ages, populations, and learning contexts.

I take a developmental approach to this question, primarily examining how young children learn through imitation. My research uses a number of methodologies to study how children learn skills, behaviors and information from others, and has focused primarily on when, whether and whom children will imitate. With this research I argue that children are flexible and adaptive learners, and that they vary their use of social learning mechanisms depending on the task at hand.

Each semester my lab recruits undergraduate student assistants. For more information on the application process, please see the lab webpage.

Representative Publications

Williamson, R. A., Markman, E. M., & Meltzoff, A. N. (2008). Prior experiences and perceived efficacy influence 3-year-olds' imitation. Developmental Psychology, 44, 275-285.

Meltzoff, A. N. & Williamson, R. A. (2008). Imitation and Modeling. In M. M. Haith & J. Benson (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Infant and Early Childhood Development, Oxford, England: Elsevier Ltd., 2008.

Williamson, R. A. & Markman, E. M. (2006).  Flexible imitation in preschoolers: The effects of understanding the goal of an action. Developmental Psychology, 42, 723-731.

Williamson, R. A. & Markman, E. M. (2005). Early emerging domain differences in the scope of generalization:  Preschoolers’ extensions of labels versus preferences. Unpublished Manuscript.