Susan Gelman

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Image of Susan Gelman from 2016
Susan Gelman

Susan A. Gelman (born July 24, 1957) is currently Heinz Werner Distinguished University Professor of psychology and linguistics and the director of the Conceptual Development Laboratory at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on cognitive development, language acquisition, categorization, inductive reasoning, causal reasoning, and the relationship between language and thought. Gelman subscribes to the domain specificity view of cognition, which asserts that the mind is composed of specialized modules supervising specific functions in the human and other animals.

Gelman was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2008 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2012. She was also formerly President of the Cognitive Development Society (2005-2007). She is currently Chair of the Governing Board of the Cognitive Science Society and President-Elect of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.

Her brother is the statistician Andrew Gelman at Columbia University.


She received her B.A., Psychology and Classical Greek from Oberlin College in 1980, and her Ph.D. in Psychology, with a Ph.D. minor in Linguistics from Stanford University in 1984. Her PhD advisor was Ellen Markman. She studies concepts and language in young children and is the author of over 200 publications in psychology research or related articles.

Research areas and topics of interest[edit]


Gelman has been a major contributor to essentialism and relating essentialist ideas to varying aspects within the field of psychology. A large number of her publications and contributions have associated essentialism and involved how its ideas can provide further insight into the field of psychology. Gelman's work within the two fields share a familiar subsection which focuses on the developmental aspect of children. Her work has established that children, within a given age range, are able to detect underlying essences or root causes for predicting observed behaviors. Gelman's role in the furthering of psychological knowledge in regards to child development has given insight into how children acquire language and the thought processing that goes into such acquisitions can be exemplified through her contributions to published works. Her dedication to furthering the understanding of childhood cognitive development.

The Conceptual Development Lab[edit]

The Conceptual Development Lab is directed by Gelman and is located in the Psychology Department at the University of Michigan. Most of the studies conducted at the lab focus on children between the ages of 2 and 10, and are carried out in a home-like laboratory setting or in local preschools and middle schools.


J. S. Guggenheim Fellowship (1996), the James Mckeen Cattell Fund Fellowship (2007-2008), the Eleanor Maccoby Book prize from Division 7 at the American Psychological Association (2005) for The Essential Child publication, the Distinguished Scientific Award from the American Psychological Association for Early career Contribution to Psychology(1991), the American Psychological Foundation Robert L. Fantz Award in (1992), the Developmental Psychology Mentor Award, Division 7, American Psychological Association (2012) and the G. Stanly Hall Award for Distinguished Contribution to Developmental Psychology, Division 7, American Psychological Association (2016).

External links[edit]