Skip to main content

Laura Novick

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and Human Development
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology

Research Interests: My research investigates students’ ability to interpret and reason with evolutionary relationships depicted in cladograms, hierarchical trees that depict these relationships in terms of levels of most recent common ancestry. My research on such tree thinking falls into three broad categories: (a) Influences of diagram design on interpretations of evolutionary relationships, (b) assessing and improving students’ tree-thinking skills, and (c) effects of prior knowledge about taxonomic relationships on tree thinking. My current research is primarily focused on questions of diagram design. This inherently interdisciplinary research combines perspectives from evolutionary biology, discipline-based education research, and cognitive and perceptual psychology. Our results suggest that biology students’ difficulty engaging in tree thinking stems from both (a) the nature of the conceptual knowledge to be acquired and (b) general constraints of the human information processing system.

Keywords: Cladograms, tree thinking, diagrammatic reasoning, Gestalt grouping, discipline-based education research