Emerging Minds Lab (Lucca)

Emerging Minds Lab (Lucca)
In our lab, we investigate how infants and young children learn about the world around them. Current projects in the lab explore the development of curiosity, social cognition, and communication from 5 months to 7 years
Lab Area
Developmental Psychology
Lab Director
Kelsey Lucca, PhD
Actively Recruiting Undergraduate Researchers

Please visit our lab's website to learn about our research:


In our lab, we investigate how infants and young children learn about the world around them. We look at: (1) how children's early curiosity supports their thinking and reasoning; (2) what role the social and cultural environment plays in shaping early learning; and (3) how children's extraordinary capacity for learning differs from other closely related species. To conduct this work, we use a variety of methodological approaches (e.g. behavioral experiments, naturalistic observations, looking-based paradigms) across a range of species, ages, and diverse cultural groups

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The Emerging Minds Lab is a part of ASU's Early Childhood Cognition Research Group

Families with infants and children aged 7 and younger can sign up to participate in our research studies here

Kelsey Lucca

Kelsey Lucca, PhD (Lab Director & Principal Investigator) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Duke University, and conducted two years of post-doctoral research at the University of Washington before joining ASU's Department of Psychology in the Fall of 2019. 

Sarah Kiefer 

Sarah Kiefer, (Lab Manager) graduated from Arizona State University in May of 2019 with a B.S. in Psychology. She worked at the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) and developed an interest in early cognitive development before joining the Emerging Minds Lab in the Fall of 2019. She has supported the lab as a research assistant, a project coordinator, and is now the lab manager. In the future, she plans to pursue a PhD in developmental psychology.

Nayen Lee

Nayen Lee

Nayen Lee (PhD student) graduated from Sogang University, South Korea in August 2019 with a B.A in Psychology & English literature. She will receive her master's degree in Psychology from Yonsei University, South Korea in August 2021 and join the Emerging Minds Lab as a PhD student in fall 2021. She is broadly interested in prosocial behaviors of infants and young children (e.g., infants' and young children’s moral understandings of helping behaviors, and how they vary across contexts)

For the full list of RA's visit this page

Lucca, K., Horton, R., & Sommerville, J. (2020). Infants rationally decide when and how to deploy effort. Nature Human Behavior.

Lucca, K., Gire, D., Horton, R., & Sommerville, J. (2020). Automated measures of force and motion can improve our understanding of infants’ motor persistence. Journal of Motor Development and Learning.

Lucca, K. The development of information-requesting gestures in infancy and their role in shaping learning outcomes. (2020). The Questioning Child: Insights from Psychology and Education. Butler, L., Ronfard., S., & Corriveau, K. (Eds.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Lucca, K., Hamlin, K., & Sommerville, J. (2019) Early moral cognition and behavior: Editorial. Frontiers in Psychology. (Complete eBook can be found here)

Lucca, K., Horton, R., & Sommerville, J. (2019) Keep Trying!: Parental language predicts infants’ persistence. Cognition.

Lucca, K., & Wilbourn, M.P. (2018). The what and the how: Information-seeking pointing gestures facilitate learning object labels and functions in 18-month-olds. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Lucca, K. & Sommerville, J. (2018) The little engine that can: Infants’ persistence matters. Trends in Cognitive Science.

Lucca, K.,  Popisil, J, & Sommerville, J. (2018). Fairness informs social decision making in infancy. PLOS ONE.

Sommerville, J., Enright, E.*, Horton, R*., Lucca, K.*, Sitch, M., & Kirchner-Adelhardt, S. (2018) Infants’ prosocial behavior is governed by cost-benefit analyses. Cognition.

Lucca, K., MacLean, E., & Hare, B. (2017). The development and flexibility of gaze alternations in bonobos and chimpanzees. Developmental Science. doi: 10.1111/desc.12598

Lucca, K., & Wilbourn, M.P. (2016). Communicating to learn: Infants’ pointing gestures reflect an optimal state for learning. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12707

Verdine, B.N., Lucca, K., Chang, A., Golinkoff, R. M., Newcombe, N.S., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2015). The shape of things: The origin of young children’s knowledge of the names and properties of geometric forms. Journal of Cognition and Development. 17(1): 142-161. doi: 10.1080/15248372.2015.1016610