Welcome to the Language & Mind Lab

The Language & Mind Lab studies how the mind works and how we (laypeople) think it does. Studying the human mind presents a unique challenge, as we are both the topic of inquiry and the inquirers. Our “conflict of interest” arises in full force when we approach the age-old question of innate knowledge – whether there are certain notions (concepts, principles) that we are bound to entertain spontaneously, simply because we are born human.

The Language & Mind Lab seeks to advance this debate by pursuing two complementary lines of inquiry:

  • First, we explore whether some aspects of knowledge are innate.  Knowledge of language, specifically phonology, is our principal case study. We ask whether certain phonological principles are inborn in humans, and whether these principles arise across language modalities – in both spoken and signed languages.
  • A second line of research examines how laypeople reason about innate knowledge.  Here, we investigate whether people are blind to the possibility that some aspects of knowledge are innate, and whether their blindness is due to innate knowledge. We explore the consequences of our blindness in a number of areas, ranging from our irrational fascination with brain sciences to how we reason about mental disorders, about free will, and the afterlife.

Our research program is deeply interdisciplinary. We seek to bring the tools of brain and cognitive science to bear on the age-old questions in the history of ideas.

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