Susan A.J. Birch (Ph.D., Yale University)
University of British Columbia
Core Area: Developmental Psychology
Dr. Birch received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 2004 and immediately began her faculty position at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Birch's research explores social perspective taking from a developmental perspective. The objectives of her research are to gain a better understanding of how the abilities and limitations associated with "theory of mind" or “social perspective-taking” (the set of processes and abilities involved in the reasoning of others' mental states) impact different aspects of learning, health, development and decision-making in children and adults. Social perspective taking abilities are involved in a wide-range of behaviour, thus quite naturally, Dr. Birch's research takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining methodology and ideology from sociology, anthropology, cognitive science, behavioral economics, and various areas of psychology (e.g., developmental, cognitive, social, health and evolutionary psychology). Fittingly, she was awarded the 2004 Dissertation Award from Division 7 of the American Psychological Association and an Early Career Scholar Award in 2005 from the Peter Wall Institude for Advanced Studies.
Dr. Birch has pursued three complementary lines of research on social perspective taking. One line of research (funded by SSHRC) 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) focuses on the basic processes, such as source memory and inhibitory control, that contribute to perspective-taking limitations and biases across development (e.g., the "curse of knowledge bias” identified by behavioral economists). The third line of Dr. Birch's research (funded by Hampton and MSFHR-CIHR Seed funds) takes an individual differences approach to examine the relations between individuals' social perspective-taking skills and their social-emotional health and well-being.