Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cognitive Science
Current Areas of Research:
My research investigates the basic mechanisms of lexical and conceptual representation and development. The research addresses questions such as the following. How do we effortlessly form concepts of a wide variety of things (e.g. dogs, trees, tables, wood, people, mothers, fathers, good, bad, freedom, justice). Are different kinds of mechanisms needed to form concepts of different types? How are conceptual representations related to perceptual and linguistic representations? Do the mechanisms of conceptual representation change with development? How are concepts represented in the brain? We use a variety of techniques to study these questions including behavioural studies with children and adults as well as ERP and fMRI.
Current projects in my laboratory include the following:
1. Conceptual representations of things and stuff: How do children and adults form and represent concepts of simple things like dogs and tables, and stuffs like water and wood? We investigate this question by manipulating properties of novel entities and recording the manner in which children and adults interpret the novel entities.
2. Conceptual constraints on count-mass noun alternations: In some cases we can use the same form of a word to refer to both an object and the kind of stuff it is constituted of (e.g. There is a pumpkin/There is some pumpkin), but not in others (e.g. There is a table./*There is some table). What are the conceptual constraints on when this is possible? When do children show knowledge of these constraints? We study these questions by asking children and adults to describe the stuff of various kinds of unfamiliar objects in different experimental conditions.
3. Representation of generic knowledge: How do we acquire and represent general facts such as “Dogs are four-legged”? These facts characterize indefinitely many instance of a kind, but we only ever have experience with a very limited number of instances of the kind. We are studying these questions using behavioral and ERP methods in collaboration with Dr. David Poeppel.
Prasada, S. (2003). Conceptual representation of animacy and its perceptual and linguistic reflections, Developmental Science, 6, 18-19. Prasada, S. (in press). Being near the ceramic, but not the mug: On the role of construal in spatial language. To appear in L. A. Carlson & E. van der Zee (Eds.), Functional features in language and space: Insights from perception, categorization and development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Prasada, S., Ferenz, K., & Haskell, T. (2002). Conceiving of entities as objects and stuff. Cognition, 83, 141-165.
Ferenz, K. & Prasada, S. (2002) Singular or plural? Children's knowledge of the factors that determine the appropriate form of count nouns. Journal of Child Language, 29, 49-70.
Prasada, S. (2000). Acquiring generic knowledge. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4, 66- 72.
Psych 270 – Cognitive Processes
Psych 750.66 – Special topics - Lexical Development