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.

Core Leadership Team


Senior Research Scientist

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:


Postdoctoral Research Associate

Kirsten Lesage is a developmental psychologist currently based out of Boston University. She completed her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the University of California, Riverside in 2020. Kirsten’s research interests focus on (1) the cultural evolution of how causal explanatory systems are transmitted (vertical and oblique), such as language, testimony, social learning, and rituals, (2) the emergence of explanatory worldviews in early childhood (folk, scientific, religious, supernatural), and (3) the role of the sociocultural context in the development of religious cognition and supernatural beliefs (e.g., concepts of God, prayer, supernatural causality). Her more recent work includes a set of cross-cultural studies examining parents’ and children’s causal explanations for biological illnesses (USA, Colombia, Mauritius). Since 2014, she has also worked with Dr. Rebekah Richert on a longitudinal study with examining children’s conceptions of prayer, supernatural beings, and causal mechanisms in four religious groups: Protestant Christian, Roman Catholic, Muslim, and Non-Affiliate. 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 based out of the University of California, Riverside.


Postdoctoral Research Associate

Boli Reyes-Jaquez is a psychological scientist based out of the University of California, Riverside. He studies human development, with a focus on how cognitive, social, and cultural factors influence two fundamental domains of social evaluation: competence and morality. Before joining the team at UCR, he obtained a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2015. After spending the next two years teaching in the Dominican Republic as a visiting scholar while fulfilling requirements of a Fulbright fellowship, he returned to the U.S. as a President’s postdoctoral research fellow at University of Minnesota, working with Dr. Melissa Koenig. His most recent work examined in different cultures children’s moral judgments of power abuse in the form of bribery; current interests include testing whether at some point in development concepts like moral fallibility (e.g., overstepping one’s authority) are deemed uniquely human, or also applicable to supernatural agents.

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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:

Post Doc Award Recipients

Click to learn about each post doc award recipient and their research.

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