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Core Leadership Team

Primary Investigators

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Rebekah Richert is a full professor of psychology and the director of the Childhood Cognition Lab at the University of California, Riverside. Based on her training in cognitive development, Dr. Richert has developed various lines of research into how children’s developing social cognition influences their understanding of religion, fantasy, and media. Her research team is nearly done with data collection from a JTF-funded, 6-wave longitudinal study of the development of religious cognitions in early childhood in children from various religious background. Her research has been published in top journals in developmental psychology, including Child Development, Cognitive Development, Developmental Psychology, and the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, as well as journals specifically devoted to the psychology of religion, including Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion and the Journal of Cognition & Culture. Dr. Richert’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (including as PI of a 5-year Collaborative Research Grant), the Social Science Research Council, the John Templeton Foundation, and the Templeton World Charity Trust.

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Kathleen Corriveau is an associate professor of applied human development at Boston University and the director of the Social Learning Lab. Her research focuses on social and cognitive development in childhood, with a specific focus on how children decide what people and what information are trustworthy sources.   She has established field sites in multiple countries, including China, Hong Kong, Iran and Turkey. She has a strong commitment for focusing on within-culture individual differences based on family socioeconomic status and religiosity. Dr. Corriveau's research has been widely published in a number of high-impact journals, including Psychological Science, Child Development, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Science, and Cognition. Her work on the role of religious exposure in children’s reality status judgments received national media attention, with media coverage from New York Daily News, USA Today, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Reader, The Week UK, Religion News Service, World Religion News, Philosophy News, Slate, Swedish Radio, The Economist, and CBC Radio. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation (including a 7 PI Collaborative Research Grant), the Templeton Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Association for Psychological Science, and the American Psychological Association. Dr. Corriveau has received several awards, including being named a current Fellow and former Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science, and the Early Career Impact Award from the Foundation of Associations of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and holds a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation.


Associate Project Director

Maliki Eyvonne Ghossainy  is a psychological scientist and statistician currently based out of Boston University. In 2016, she completed her Ph.D in Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research integrates social, cognitive, cultural, and biological mechanisms into a model of belief formation across the early childhood years. Using mixed methods designs, Maliki studies the sophisticated ways in which children judiciously evaluate different sources of information. Maliki’s research emphasizes the importance of studying children’s cognition in context, and her recent studies investigate the role of linguistic input in the epistemic judgements of multilingual children. While working on her doctoral degree, Maliki also completed an M.S. in Statistics and was one of five students to be selected as a Graduate Fellow in Statistics at UT Austin in 2014. In addition to being an experienced researcher, Maliki is also an active statistical consultant and has worked with clients from a variety of fields (e.g., academic and non-academic settings, private and public sectors) to design surveys, analyze data, offer technical trainings, and report findings to relevant stakeholders. Personal website:

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Research Administrator

Carole Meyer-Rieth is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles (BA, Psychology) with over twenty years of professional experience in academic administrative support, event planning, graphic design, and project management.  As a trustee of a private foundation since 2011, Carole is experienced in grants administration and has an ongoing role in local, national, and global philanthropy as a member of Southern California Grantmakers and the Council on Foundations. She is also an events planner with experience in website and social media content design.  Carole is based out of the University of California, Riverside.

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Senior Postdoctoral Researcher

Ayse Payir is a senior postdoctoral researcher at the Social Learning Lab at Boston University, working with Kathleen Corriveau and Paul L. Harris (Harvard University). Her research focuses on the interplay between culture and the development of cognition, emotion, and morality from childhood to adulthood. She explores how children imagine alternatives to reality, use these alternatives to make inferences about others’ emotions, and make moral judgments. She also investigates how sociocultural factors—such as religious status—impact the boundaries of these alternatives. Previously she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Social and Moral Cognition Lab at Columbia University. For more information about Ayse and her research, please visit her personal website:


Postdoctoral Project Director

Kara Weisman studies intuitive theories and conceptual change, with a focus on folk philosophy of mind. Kara completed a B.A. in cognitive science at Yale University in 2009, and a Ph.D. in psychology at Stanford University in 2019. From 2016-2020, she was one of the core researchers on the Mind and Spirit Project (funded by the Templeton Foundation, PI: T.M. Luhrmann), a long-term collaboration grounded in anthropology and psychology, which examined how understandings of the mind shape people’s spiritual experiences across diverse faiths and cultures. In her recent work, Kara has advocated for leveraging “bottom-up” statistical analyses to identify continuities and differences in concepts across groups of people, with particular attention to concepts of mental life among adults and 4- to 12-year-old children in the US, Ghana, Thailand, China, and Vanuatu. She is based out of the University of California, Riverside, but lives in the Greater Boston area. Personal website:


Postdoctoral Research Associate

Jenny Nissel is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Boston University. She earned a B.A. from Yale University in psychology and theater (2009), and a Ph.D. from UT Austin in developmental psychology (2023). She studies the development of the imagination, with a particular interest in how children across cultures think about possibility, religion, and fiction..

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Allison J. Williams-Gant is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Boston University. Her research interests focus on how children identify who (or what) is a good source of information and how this preference might change depending on the domain (e.g., religious vs scientific). Her most recent work examined how accuracy and expertise influence children’s judgements of a source’s knowledge and how these judgements influence children's preferences for future learning. She completed her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, with a specialization in Development, at the University of Louisville in Spring 2022 and joined the Developing Belief Network as a Postdoctoral Research Associate the following summer.

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