Faculty » Rachel Wu

My developmental cognitive neuroscience research studies how attention and learning interact from infancy to aging adulthood when finding and learning relevant information. My guiding hypothesis is that infants are more input-driven and adults are more knowledge-driven in the way they take in information. Input-driven learning is based on salience and frequency-of-occurrence with a weak distinction between relevant and irrelevant. By contrast, the knowledge-driven approach relies on processing only relevant or necessary events as defined by previous experience. Using neural (EEG) and behavioral (eye-tracking, accuracy/reaction time) responses in visual search and statistical learning paradigms, my studies show that infants and adults differ in their approaches to finding and learning about target objects. My research program has two components: 1) measuring adults’ use of previously acquired knowledge and tracking the development of this ability from infancy, and 2) applying infant and child learning strategies to mitigate cognitive decline during aging. Using infant learning to inform adult learning and vice versa has the greatest promise to lead to discoveries about optimal learning strategies that can be applied throughout the lifespan.

Selected Publications

Papageorgiou, K. A., Smith, T. J., Wu, R., Johnson, M. H., Kirkham, N. Z., & Ronald, A. (in press). Individual differences in infant fixation duration relate to child attention and behavioral control in childhood. Psychological Science.

Tummeltshammer, K. A., Wu, R., Sobel, D., & Kirkham, N. Z. (2014). Infants track the reliability of potential informants. Psychological Science, 25(9), 1730-1738.

Nako, R., Wu, R., & Smith, T. J., & Eimer, M. (2014). Item and category-based attentional control during search for real-world objects: Can you find the pants among the pans? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40(4), 1283-1288.

Wu, R., Tummeltshammer, K. S., Gliga, T., & Kirkham, N. Z.  (2014). Ostensive signals support learning from novel attention cues during infancy. Frontiers in Psychology, 5:251.

Scerif, G., & Wu, R. (2014). Developmental Disorders. In A.C. Nobre & S. Kastner (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Attention (pp. 893-926). Oxford: OUP.

Nako, R.*, Wu, R.*, & Eimer, M. (2014). Rapid guidance of visual search by object categories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40(1), 50-60. (*equal authorship)

Lloyd-Fox, S., Wu, R., Richards, J., Elwell, C., & Johnson, M. H. (2013). Cortical activation to action perception is associated with action production abilities in young infants. Cerebral Cortex.

Wu, R., Scerif, G., Aslin, R. N., Smith, T. J., Nako, R., & Eimer, M. (2013). Searching for something familiar or novel: Top-down attentional selection of specific items or object categories. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25(5), 719-729.

Wu, R. (2013). Learning from learners. The Psychologist, 26(2), 550-551.
Yurovsky, D., Hidaka, S., & Wu, R. (2012). Quantitative Linking Hypotheses for Infant Eye Movements. PLoS One, 7(10), e47419.

Wu, R., Gopnik, A., Richardson, D. C., & Kirkham, N. Z. (2011). Infants learn about objects from statistics and people. Developmental Psychology, 47(5), 1220-1229.

Wu, R., Mareschal, D., & Rakison, D. H. (2011). Attention to multiple cues during spontaneous object labeling. Infancy, 16(5), 545–556.

Wu, R., & Kirkham, N. Z. (2010). No two cues are alike: Depth of learning during infancy is dependent on what orients attention. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 107, 118-136.