I am currently a Postdoc in Psychology at Yale University. I work in the Mind and Development Lab with Paul Bloom, and also in the Human Cooperation Lab with David Rand.

My research interests lie at the intersection of psychology and philosophy, and much of my work focuses on our naive theories about the physical and social world. In particular, I'm interested in how adults and children think about humans and other agents as both bodies and "souls" -- that is, as both physical and psychological entities. A second line of research explores our commonsense ideas about knowledge and belief.

Research

My research is currently focused on the following topics:

Naive theories of the self

Even very young babies understand that agents are different from objects in a variety of ways. Agents have an inner life that objects don’t have—they have a self, or soul. What is our natural way of thinking about this self? Do we intuitively understand the self as something separate from the body? Do we see it as an immaterial, thinking thing, as Descartes believed; a bundle of perceptions, as Hume saw himself; or some sort of physical entity that inhabits the body, as many popular films depict? Some current projects are investigating whether children and adults intuitively consider the self to have a location within the body, and whether we might naturally think of the self as having certain physical properties.

The divided self

When making difficult decisions -- whether to eat that second cupcake; whether to lie to get out of trouble -- we often feel as though we contain multiple selves, each with its own desires, and each struggling for control of our decisions. Philosophers and psychologists from Plato to Freud have proposed theories of multiple selves, and have offered counsel on how to choose among them. My current research is exploring our commonsense theories about multiple selves, and the role that these internal conflicts play in children’s and adults’ social and moral judgments.

The self in time

A person is usually thought of as being the same continuously existing individual from birth to death, despite the many physical and psychological changes that occur throughout a lifetime. However, we sometimes treat our future selves as if they were another person-—we negotiate with them, try to outsmart them, cajole them, and so on. We can be surprisingly nasty to our future selves, putting off painful experiences so they will have to endure the experience rather than us, failing to save enough (or anything) for their retirement, and refusing to eat well and exercise despite knowing how these decisions will affect their health. This line of research is exploring the implications and origins of this tendency by investigating how children and adults reason about the self over time.

The folk concept of knowledge

How do we decide if a person knows something or just believes it? A wealth of research in developmental psychology has provided insight into how we reason about others' beliefs, but we know far less about how we conclude that a belief consitutes knowledge. This line of research is focused on how traditional factors such as truth and justification play into our ordinary epistemic intuitions, as well as the role played by other factors, such as luck and causal connections.



Publications

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Journal articles
Starmans, C., Sheskin, M. & Bloom, P. (in press).
Why people prefer unequal societies.
Nature Human Behavior, 1, 0082.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2016).
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak: Developmental differences in judgments about inner moral conflict.
Psychological Science, 27(11), 1498–1506.

Millar, C., Starmans, C., Fugelsang, J., & Friedman, O. (2016).
It’s personal: The effect of personal value on utilitarian moral judgments.
Judgment and Decision Making, 11, 326-331.

Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2016).
If I am free you can't own me: Autonomy makes entities less ownable.
Cognition, 148, 145-153.
PDF of stimuli

Levene, M., Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2015).
Creation in judgments about the establishment of ownership.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 60, 103-109.

Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2013)
Taking 'know' for an answer: A reply to Nagel, San Juan, & Mar.
Cognition, 129(3) 662-665.

Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2012)
The Folk Conception of Knowledge.
Cognition, 124, 272-283.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2012)
Windows to the Soul: Children and Adults See the Eyes as the Location of the Self.
Cognition, 123(2),313-318.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2011)
What do you think you are?
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1234, 44-47.
Under review
Starmans, C. & Bloom, P.
A series of separate selves: Happiness distributions across a lifespan mirror happiness distributions across a group.

Starmans, C.
Children's theories of the self.
In preparation
Starmans, C., Rand, D. G., & Bloom, P.
The temporal size of the self increases with age.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P.
The location of the self across cultures.

Starmans, C. & Friedman, O.
No, no, KNOW! Academic disciplines disagree about the nature of knowledge.


Presentations

Invited Talks
A series of separate selves: Parallel judgments about optimal lives and optimal socities.
Cooperation and Self-Control Workshop.
King's College London
London, England. June 2016.

The Self in Space and Time.
The Geography of Philosophy: Knowledge, Person, and Wisdom.
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. October 2015.

Development: The mother of all transformative experiences.
UNC-ND Collaborative Workshop on Transformative and Religious Experience.
Chicago, Illinois. Septempber 2015.

Me's a Crowd: Future Selves as Others.
Interdisciplinary Conference on Personal Identity and Decision Making.
University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Chicago, Illinois. May 2015.

Me's a Crowd: Future Selves as Others.
Experimental Philosophy of the Self Workshop.
New York University
New York, New York. December 2014.

The Self in Space and Time.
Experimental Philosophy Group.
Waterloo, Ontario. November 2013.
Conference Presentations
Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2017)
Why children believe they are owned.
Talk presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development.
Austin, Texas.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2016)
The child is father to the man...or so he thinks.
Talk presented at the Transformative Experience Preconference
41st Meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology
Austin, Texas.

Starmans, C., Rand, D. G., & Bloom, P. (2016)
The temporal size of the self increases with age.
Poster presented at the Seventeenth Annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology
San Diego, California.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2015)
Sticky Marshmallows: Experience with temptation reduces children’s condemnation of tempted others.
Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Cognitive Development Society
Columbus, Ohio.

Symposium Chair. (2014).
Little Philosophers: Children’s developing metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology.
Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2014).
Conflict in the Soul: A developmental difference in judgments about temptation.
Talk presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2014)
Conflict in the Soul: A developmental difference in judgements about temptation.
Talk presented at the 40th Meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology
Vancouver, British Columbia.

Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2014)
No, no, KNOW! Academic disciplines disagree about the nature of knowledge.
Talk presented at the Common-Sense Beliefs and Lay Theories Preconference
at the Fifteenth Annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Austin, Texas.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2013)
A Lifetime of Separate Selves: Children's Intuitions About Personal Identity.
Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Cognitive Development Society
Memphis, Tennessee.

Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2013)
Why People Aren't Property: Ownership and Personhood.
Talk presented at the 39th Meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology
Providence, Rhode Island.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2013)
Conflict in the Soul: A Developmental Difference in Moral Judgments About Temptation.
Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development
Seattle, Washington.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2013)
The Self in Space and Time.
Talk presented at the Common-Sense Beliefs and Lay Theories Preconference
at the Fourteenth Annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology
New Orleans, Louisiana.

Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2012)
The Folk Conception of Knowledge.
Talk presented at the 38th Meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology
Boulder, Colorado.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2012)
Windows to the Soul: Intuitions about the Location of the Self.
Talk presented at the Social Cognitive Development Workshop at Harvard University
Boston, Massachusetts.

Starmans, C. & Bloom, P. (2011)
Localizing the Homunculus: Children's Intuitions about the Location of the Self.
Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development
Montreal, Canada.

Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2009)
Is knowledge subjective? A sex difference in adults' epistemic intuitions.
Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Cognitive Development Society
San Antonio, Texas.

Miscellanea

Academic advice I've found useful
On giving an academic talk (Jonathan Shewchuk)
Some modest advice for graduate students (Stephen Stearns)
Musings on academia (Brian Scholl)

Other interesting things
The scale of the universe

Personal
Travel photos
Urban gardening blog


Contact Me

Office: (203) 432-0877 (SSS 6)
Mail: 2 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, CT 06511
Email: christina.starmans@yale.edu
Twitter: @chris_starmans