Marianella Casasola earned her undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Spanish Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her MA and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Her expertise is in infant cognitive development and early language acquisition with a special interest in the interaction between cognition and language. She continues to study various aspects of infant cognitive and linguistic development, with a particular focus on the emergence of spatial concepts, the early acquisition of spatial language, and the interplay between spatial cognition and spatial language in infants and young children. Her more recent work is examining infants' and young children's ability to learn a second language. In collaboration with Dr. Gary Evans and several graduate students, she also has begun to examine early links between infant cognitive and socio-emotional abilities in middle- and low-income infants..
My research program focuses on various aspects of infant cognitive development and early word learning. I am particularly interested in the interaction between cognition and language during the first few years of development. Much of my work has focused on early spatial cognition as well as the early acquisition of spatial language.
One goal of my research is to outline the degree to which infants' perceptual and cognitive abilities provide them with the ability to acquire the meanings expressed across language-specific semantic categories (e.g., "in", "on", "out" and "off"). I also explore how experience with spatial language can serve to bolster the spatial categories infants form. This line of work has been extended to examine how parent interactions and infants' play behavior contribute to the earlier acquisition of particular spaital concepts.
Recent research has begun to examine other spatial skills in infants with the goal of tracking the developmental trajectories of these spatial skills. We again strive to explore the role of spatial language in the development of these abilities. My students and I have working to develop a new measure of infant spatial cognition that can be used to track the development of this ability from infancy into early childhood.
I also examine aspects of language development, with a focus on the early acquisition of spatial language in infatns and toddlers. My students and I have examined how infants acquire semantic spatial categories, exploring this question in both experimental and naturalistic studies. In collaboration with Dr. Soonja Choi and Dr. Katharina Rohlfing, we have examine the nature of mothers' input to infants during their second year. We are comparing infants from English-, Spanish-, Korean- and German-speaking families.
In other work, my students and I have begun to explore how infants and toddlers learn labels in a second language, examining how much exposure to a novel language (such as Spanish) is necessary for infants to begin to demonstrate comprehension of words in the unfamiliar language.
Finally, one line of research is exploring links between infant cognitive and socio-emotional abilities. In collaboration with Gary Evans and several graduate students, we are documenting relations between infants' early cognitive abilities (such as language and attention) and their socio-emotional abilities (such as emotion understanding and self-regulation), exploring this relation in infants from middle- and low-income families.
Charter member, NIH Cognition and Perception study section
Board member, Cognitive Development Society
Member, Society for Research in Child Development, International Society on Infant Studies, Cognitive Development Society
Ad-hoc reviewer, Psychological Science, Cognition, Child Development, Developmental Science, Journal of Child Language, Journal of Cognition and Development, Spatial Cognition and Computation, Cognitive Science, Language Learning and Development, Infancy, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Trends in Cognitive Science, British Journal of Developmental Psychology, Developmental Neuropsychology, Perspectives on Psychological Science
Gary Evans and I have beein developing a partnership with several family educators that are part of the Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in Tompkins, Cortland and Yate counties. These agencies have been assisting us in recruiting a broader sample of infants, particulalry infants from low-income families. The generous support of the Human Ecology Summer Internships have been instrumental in fostering this relationship with CCE.