Dr. Susan A. J. Birch
Department of Psychology
University of British Columbia
I received my Ph.D. from Yale University in 2004 and immediately accepted my current position at the University of British Columbia.
Overview of Research Program
One line of research (funded by SSHRC--the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) examines how children’s early social perspective taking (specifically their ability to make inferences about what others are likely to know) influences what, and from whom, they learn.
A second line of research (funded by NSERC—the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) focuses on the basic processes, such as source memory and inhibitory control, that contribute to perspective taking limitations and biases (e.g., the ‘curse of knowledge’) across development.
The third line of my research (funded by Hampton and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research-Canadian Institute of Health Research Seed Development Funds) reflects a newer area of investigation for me. It takes an individual differences approach to examine the relations between individuals’ social perspective-taking skills and their social-emotional health and well-being.
One of the most exciting aspects of my research is its relationship to a wide variety of topics such as imitation and social learning, non-verbal communication, language acquisition, reasoning and decision-making, heuristics and biases, source memory and source monitoring, executive function and inhibitory control, fluency misattribution,prosocial and antisocial behavior, and interpersonal and intrapersonal health. From such a diverse array of topics one might wonder whether being too much of an intellectual ‘omnivore’ could result in a research diet lacking sufficient ‘meat’ or depth. My aim, however, is not to be an expert in any of these areas per se but rather to gain an in-depth understanding of the omnipresent role of social perspective taking—specifically the human tendency to make inferences about what others are likely to know. Indeed it is the ubiquitous nature of social perspective taking that lends itself especially well to (perhaps even necessitates) a multi-faceted and interdisciplinary approach. Thus, in my research I combine methodology and ideology from cognitive, social, health, and evolutionary psychology to those from developmental psychology to examine how the human ability to reason about others’ knowledge influences our learning, health, and decision-making across development (beginning around 18 months of age through young adulthood).