Welcome to the RabLab. We study how children think and learn, and particularly how they learn to talk.

This site provides information about us, and the research that we do. Most of our studies take place in our fabulous new developmental lab at 7 George Square, pictured above.

We are part of a growing developmental science community at the University of Edinburgh. Families who are interested in taking part in studies can find lots more information at the website for Wee Science, the umbrella for all of the child developmental work in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences.

Students interested in getting involved in our research should get in touch with Hugh Rabagliati directly. You might also be interested in finding out about some of the other wonderful developmental labs at the University of Edinburgh, including ElfLand and D.A.R.T.

Folks in the Lab

We're a motley collection of researchers and students, all interested in how kids think and talk. There are lots of opportunities for getting involved, from undergraduates interested in getting their first research experience, to Ph.D students interested in a postdoc. Just get in contact.

Hugh Rabagliati

I am a Reader in the Department of Psychology, and am lucky enough to work with all of these wonderful people. I became interested in the science of child development as an undergraduate, spent many years training in developmental psychology in America, and returned to the UK to start the RabLab in 2013. I like hiking, pasta, and noodling around ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. I dislike cutting my hair. My departmental webpage is here.

Chiara Gambi

I first studied linguistics in Italy and then psychology of language at the University of Edinburgh. I'm now a postdoc working on a project funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

I am interested in the idea that people (both children and adults) understand others partly by anticipating what they are about to say. Studying how we do it will hopefully pave the way to understanding how we can take turns so smoothly in conversation and even complete one another’s utterances at times.

Jarek Lelonkiewicz

Cześć! I'm a PhD Psychology student in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. My interests include a bunch of different fields, including philosophy of science, some theoretical linguistics, as well as most of cognitive and social psychology. But above all I'm fascinated with language and the richness of human communicative behaviour.

For example, did you know that when two people talk, after a while they start to spontaneously imitate each other's words and gestures? Currently, I'm testing a couple of hypotheses trying to find out why do people do that. (Cześć means Hi in Polish.)

Sinead O'Carroll

I am currently an Msc by Research Psychology student in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences here at the University of Edinburgh. I am particularly interested in infant vocalizations and gesture, and the role gesture plays in language development.

Sarah Hampton

I am a research assistant in the Department of Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. I'm currently working on a project looking at autism and bilingualism. This involves finding out about how multilingual families with a child with autism decide whether or not to raise their child to speak more than one language. Previously, I did a Master's degree in cognitive neuroscience at UCL, where I carried out research on creativity and autism. My interests include autism, language development, social cognition and philosophy of mind.

Cara Connachan

I'm a 4th year Psychology and Linguistics student born and bred just outside Edinburgh. My main interest is in children's language development and I am currently conducting research on children's language prediction as part of my 4th year dissertation. In my spare time I enjoy reading books, watching movies and eating food with my friends.

Ellen Carracher

I am a fourth year Psychology and Linguistics student. I became interested in child language acquisition and development after tutoring young children in reading and writing. In the future I hope to become a speech therapist and continue working with children. In my spare time I enjoy eating out and going to the cinema.

Ivan Kroupon

I am a fourth year joint honours psychology and philosophy student. At the moment I'm working on my final year dissertation which is looking at the development of dimensional cognition. Consequently, my current focus is on cognitive and conceptual development, but likewise I am interested in language, social cognition, neurocognitive research and conceptual/philosophical issues related to all of the above.

Anu Hiekkaranta

I am a 4th Year Psychology student. Currently I am working on my dissertation on word learning in young children. At the moment my main interests are cognitive, conceptual and linguistic development and in the future I plan to focus on educational applications of developmental science as well. I baby-sit in my free time and have always had a wonderful time working with children.

Current Research

Language and awareness What role does conscious awareness play in understanding language? We do experiments to answer questions like:
To what degree do we have to be aware of a sentence to understand it?
How does learning to speak encourage children to attend to the world differently?
Meanings and concepts What is the relationship between how we think about the world, and how we talk about it? For instance, in English, we can say that the DVD was round and shiny, and that the movie was an hour long. We can also say that the DVD was an hour long, but we can't say the movie was round and shiny. Why does language allow some meanings to be flexible, but not others? We study how these flexible meanings are used by adults, how children learn to be flexible, and what the implications are for cognition more broadly.
Language impairments We use methods from psycholinguistics and developmental psychology to study the language impairments of various populations. We are particularly interested in the communicative difficulties faced by many individuals with schizophrenia, and use methods like eye tracking to study why they have difficulty talking and understanding.


Journal articles

Gambi, C, Jindal, P., Sharpe, S., Pickering, M.J. & Rabagliati, H. (in press). The relation between preschoolers’ vocabulary growth and their ability to predict and recognize words. Child Development.[link]

Tobar, A., Rabagliati, H. & Branigan, H. (2021). Speakers extrapolate community-level knowledge from individual linguistic encounters. Cognition, 210, 104602.[link]

Dautriche, I., Goupil, L., Smith, K. & Rabagliati, H. (2021). Knowing how you know: Toddlers reevaluate words learned from an unreliable speaker. Open Mind, 5, 1-19.[link]

Heyman, T., Moors, P. & Rabagliati, H. (2020). The benefits of adversarial collaboration for commentaries. Nature Human Behaviour, 4, 1417.[link]

Ebersole, C.R., Mathur, M.B., ... Rabagliati, H., ... & Nosek, B.A. (2020). Many Labs 5: Testing pre-data-collection peer review as an intervention to increase replicability. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, 3, 209-331.[link]

Corps, R. & Rabagliati, H. (2020). How top-down processing enhances comprehension of noise- vocoded speech: Predictions about meaning are more important than predictions about form. Journal of Memory and Language, 113, 104-114.[link]

Rabagliati, H., Moors, P., & Heyman, T. (2020). Can item effects explain away the evidence for unconscious sound symbolism? An adversarial commentary on Heyman, Maerten, Vankrunkelsven, Voorspoels and Moors (2019) Psychological Science, 31(9), 1200-1204.[link]

The ManyBabies Consortium (2020). Quantifying sources of variability in infancy research using the infant-directed speech preference. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, 3(1), 24-52. [link]

Rabagliati, H., Corley, M., Dering, B., Hancock, P.J.B., King, J., Levitan, C.A., Loy, J., & Millen, A.E. (2020) Many Labs 5: Registered Replication Report of Crosby, Monin and Richardson (2008). Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, 3(3), 353-363.[link]

Lindsay, L., Gambi, C., & Rabagliati, H. (2019). Preschoolers optimize the timing of their conversational turns through flexible coordination of language comprehension and production. Psychological Science, 30, 504-515.[pdf]

Rabagliati, H., Delaney-Busch, N., Snedeker, J., & Kuperberg, G. (2019). Spared bottom-up but impaired top-down interactive effects during naturalistic language processing in schizophrenia: Evidence from the visual world paradigm. Psychological Medicine,49,1335-1345. [pdf]

Tobar, A., Rabagliati, H. & Branigan, H. (2019). Lexical entrainment reflects a stable individual trait: Implications for individual differences in language processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. 46(6), 1091–1105.

Rabagliati, H., Ferguson, B., & Lew-Williams, C. (2019). The profile of abstract rule learning in infancy. Meta-analytic and experimental evidence. Developmental Science,22e12704. [pdf]

Srinivasan, M., Berner, C., & Rabagliati, H. (2019). Children’s use of polysemy to structure new word meanings. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,148926-942. [pdf]

Gambi, C., Gorrie, F., Pickering, M.J. & Rabagliati, H. (2018). The development of linguistic prediction: Predictions of sound and meaning in 2-to-5 year olds. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 173, 351-370. [pdf]

Rabagliati, H., Robertson, A. & Carmel, D. (2018). The role of awareness in understanding language. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(2), 190-208. [pdf]

Rabagliati, H. & Robertson, A. (2017). How do children learn to avoid referential ambiguity? Insights from eyetracking. Journal of Memory and Language, 94 15-27. [pdf]

Hampton, S., Rabagliati, H., Sorace, A. & Fletcher-Watson, S.(2017). Autism and bilingualism: A qualitative interview study of parents' perspectives and experiences. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 60,435-446. [pdf]

Frank, M. C., Bergelson, E., Bergmann, C., Cristia, A., Floccia, C., Gervain, J., Hamlin, J. K., Hannon, E. E., Kline, M., Levelt, C., Lew-Williams, C., Nazzi, T., Panneton, R., Rabagliati, H., Soderstrom, M., Sullivan, J., Waxman, S., Yurovsky, D. (2017). A collaborative approach to infant research: Promoting reproducibility, best practices, and theory-building. Infancy, 22(4), 421-435. [pdf]

Rabagliati, H., Doumas, L.A.A., & Bemis, D.K. (2017). Representing composed meanings through temporal binding. Cognition, 162, 61-72. [pdf]

Gambi, C., Pickering, M.J., & Rabagliati, H.(2016). Beyond associations: Sensitivity to structure in preschoolers' predictions. Cognition, 157, 340-351. [pdf]

Rabagliati, H., Gambi, C., & Pickering, M.J. (2016). Learning to predict or predicting to learn? Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 31, 94-105.[pdf]

Hahn, N., Snedeker, J. & Rabagliati, H. (2015). Rapid linguistic ambiguity resolution in young children with autism spectrum disorder: Eye tracking evidence for the limits of weak central coherence. Autism Research. 8, 717-726. [pdf]

Srinivasan, M. & Rabagliati, H. (2015). How concepts and conventions structure the lexicon: Cross-linguistic evidence from polysemy. Lingua. [pdf]

Rabagliati, H. & Bemis, D.K. (2013). Prediction is no panacea: The key to language is in the unexpected. (Commentary on Pickering and Garrod's An integrated theory of language comprehension and production.). Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36, 372-373.

Rabagliati, H. & Snedeker, J. (2013). The truth about chickens and bats: Ambiguity avoidance distinguishes types of polysemy. Psychological Science, 24, 1354-1360. [pdf]

Rabagliati, H., Pylkkänen, L., & Marcus, G.F. (2013). Top-down influence in young children's linguistic ambiguity resolution. Developmental Psychology, 49, 1076-1089.[pdf]

Rabagliati, H., Senghas, A., Johnson, S.P., & Marcus, G.F. (2012). Rule learning: Advantage language or advantage speech? Plos ONE, 7(7): e40517. [pdf]

Rabagliati, H., Marcus, G.F., & Pylkkänen, L. (2011). Rules, radical pragmatics, and restrictions on regular polysemy. Journal of Semantics, 28(4),485-512. [pdf]

Rabagliati, H., Marcus, G.F., & Pylkkänen, L. (2010). Shifting senses in lexical semantic development. Cognition, 117(1), 17-37. [pdf]

Dikker, S., Rabagliati, H., Farmer, T. A., & Pylkkänen, L. (2010). Early occipital sensitivity to syntactic category is based on form typicality. Psychological Science, 21(5), 623-628 [pdf]

Dikker, S., Rabagliati, H., & Pylkkänen, L. (2009). Sensitivity to Syntax in Visual Cortex. Cognition, 110(3), 293-321 [pdf]

Johnson, S. P., Fernandes, K. J., Frank, M. C., Kirkham, N. Z., Marcus, G. F., Rabagliati, H., & Slemmer, J. A. (2009). Abstract Rule Learning for Visual Sequences in 8- and 11-Month-Olds. Infancy, 14(1), 2-18 [pdf]

Marcus, G.F. & Rabagliati, H. (2006). What developmental disorders can tell us about the nature and origins of language. Nature Neuroscience, 9(10), 1226-9 [pdf]

Marcus, G.F. & Rabagliati, H. (2006). Genes and domain specificity, Trends in Cognitive Science, 10(9), 397-8. [pdf]

Book chapters

Marcus, G.F., Rabaglia, C.D., & Rabagliati, H. (2013). Modularity and descent with modification. In Boeckx, C. & Kleanthes, K.G., (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of biolinguistics. Cambridge, UK: CUP.

Marcus, G.F., & Rabagliati, H. (2008). Language acquisition, domain specificity and descent with modification. In Colombo, J., McCardle, P., & Freund, L., (Eds.), Infant Pathways to Language:, Methods, Models and Research Directions. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.


You can email Hugh on hugh.rabagliati@ed.ac.uk, or use the form below to send a message to the general lab email (e.g., if you're interested in participating in a study.)