Adena Schachner

I'm a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology at Boston University, working with Dr. Deb Kelemen and Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg. I completed my graduate work with Dr. Susan Carey and Dr. Elizabeth Spelke, in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.


My research program focuses on social cognitive development, particularly the role of inference and explanation in social and causal reasoning. I'm currently most excited about two growing lines of my work, asking how infants and children learn about other people, and understand the goals of others' actions.


My work has also focused on music cognition, particularly the origins of our capacity to move in time with a beat. In my current work, I often use music cognition as a window into novel aspects of social cognition, leveraging musical phenomena to answer questions about mental state inference.

Major Research Projects
Social inferences from artifacts: As adults, we judge others' traits, interests, and affiliations from the artifacts others own, wear and carry. How does this capacity develop, and is it impaired in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder? Learn more
Goal inference and action concepts: We can't see others' goals directly - we infer them, using the assumption that people move efficiently toward the object they want. Dance and ritual actions don't fit this mold, though! How do we categorize and represent dance-like actions? Learn more
Inferring the causes of (music-like) sounds: When and on what basis do we infer that sounds were created by animate agents? Learn more
Infant social cognition: Do infants use other's past behavior to choose one person over another? Do infants understand social categories? Learn more
The development of mental theories: How do we begin to understand and differentiate between the different domains of the natural world -- artifacts of animate agents as different from inanimate objects, and artifacts as different from the natural world? Learn more
The origins and social consequences of entrainment: Why can humans universally move to a beat, while other primates cannot? How did this ability evolve, and how does it develop? Does synchronized movement affect social behavior? Learn more
Other Interests
Replicability in science: How can we increase the importance of replicability, incentivize replication, and conduct meta-analyses to promote a nuanced understanding of replication data? Learn more
Mentorship in science: I enjoy and strongly believe in the value of providing good mentorship for students and younger researchers. I hold workshops to train junior researchers in all stages of the scientific process. Learn more