• Cognition Across Development Lab

  • What We Do

    We study how individuals learn about the social world around them.



    The Cognition Across Development (CAD) Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences explores the development of social cognition across human and nonhuman primates. Our research examines how young individuals make sense of and cope with the complex social world around them. The goal of our research in the CAD Lab is to better understand how early emerging aspects of cognition and perception help an individual thrive in their particular environment.

  • News

    Recent coverage of the people and the work in the CAD Lab

    Interview with Dr. Mandalaywala about why she's so excited to be at UMass!

    Coverage of Mandalaywala, Ranger-Murdock, Amodio, & Rhodes, 2018 Child Development

    A profile on Dr. Mandalaywala and her experiences as a Puerto Rican-Indian studying Indian monkeys in Puerto Rico.

  • Our Current Research

    Individuals don’t develop in a bubble; they develop in the contexts of families, communities, and cultures. We study how variation in experience shapes cognition and behavior, and are particularly interested in how children adapt to their particular environment. We use methods from developmental and social psychology, behavioral endocrinology, and behavioral ecology to examine how the environment that an individual grows up in shapes their perceptions, beliefs, and biases about the world around them.

    Nonhuman primates

    In nonhuman primates, we study individuals across the lifespan, to explore how cognitive variation helps individuals thrive, even under less than ideal circumstances. Our current long-term project uses a mix of behavioral observations and cognitive assessments to study the long-term consequences of early life adversity in the rhesus macaques on Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico.

    Child Development

    Experiences don’t have to be adverse to shape social cognition, and our research in human development focuses on normative social cognitive development. We examine how parents and the neighborhoods children grow up in shape how they begin to think about others in terms of their gender, race, or social status. Understanding how children come to view certain social categories as special and salient can help us understand the developmental origins of problematic social phenomena, such as stereotyping, prejudice, and inequality.

  • Who We Are

    Tara Mandalaywala

    Lab Director

    Assistant Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences

    Alix Alto

    Lab Manager

    Alix graduated with her B.S. (Hon) in Psychology from Northeastern University in 2017. She is fascinated by all facets of intuitive social cognition, most specifically in and surrounding marginalized groups and gender minorities. In addition to her work at the CAD Lab, Alix collaborates with the Affect and Social Cognition Lab, the CORE Lab at Northeastern University, and the High-Level Cognition Lab at Queen’s University Belfast on projects pertaining to perceptions of symbols of inclusion, gender essentialism, and episodic memory.

    Hailey Pensky

    Research Assistant

    Hailey is a recent UMass Amherst graduate, with a Bachelor's in Psychology. She plans to bring her experience in social psychology research to a future career helping individuals and families in social work.

    Edye Benedict

    Research Assistant

    Edye is a junior psychology major at UMass with an interest in issues of gender identity, attachment/adoption, and anxiety in young children. She has always loved working with kids and hopes to pursue a research career in developmental psychology in order to positively impact the lives of children and families.

    Cody Miner

    Research Assistant


    Cody is a recent graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he received a BS in Psychology. He currently works in Northampton doing in-home therapy for children and is excited to learn more about how children perceive the world.

    Amber Nguyen

    Research Assistant


    Amber is a Neuroscience and Legal Studies major at UMass Amherst (class of 2022). She is a Vietnamese international student with a passion for working with children and a curiosity for the wonders of psychology

    Ashwin Srinivasan

    Research Assistant


    Ashwin is a junior at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. He’s super into singing and reading and is still waiting for Frank Ocean to drop an album.

    Jess Guertin

    Research Assistant


    Jess is from Grafton, Massachusetts and she is a (rising) sophomore psychology major at UMass Amherst. She hopes to pursue clinical and counseling psychology specifically with children and adolescents after she graduates, and she believes that CAD lab is a wonderful opportunity and experience to help her gain more knowledge in the field that she loves!

    Andrew Delgado

    Research Assistant


    Andrew is from New York City and is a rising sophomore student majoring in psychology and getting a minor in Spanish. He plans to become an industrial-organizational psychologist in order to promote cultural inclusivity.

  • Publications

    Mandalaywala T.M. (2019) Emergence of Social Reasoning About Hierarchies. In: Shackelford T., Weekes-Shackelford V. (eds) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer, Cham


    Madrid, J. E., Mandalaywala, T.M., Coyne, S.P., Garner, J.P., Barr, C.S., Maestripieri, D., & Parker, K.J. (2018). Adaptive developmental plasticity in rhesus macaques: 5-HTTLPR interacts with early maternal care to affect juvenile social behavior. Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


    Mandalaywala, T.M., Ranger-Murdock, G., Amodio, D.M., & Rhodes, M. (2018). The nature and consequences of essentialist beliefs about race in early childhood. Child Development.


    Mandalaywala, T.M., Petrullo, L.A., Parker, K.J., Maestripieri, D. & Higham, J.P. (in press). Vigilance for threat accounts for inter-individual variation in physiological responses to adversity in rhesus macaques: A Cognition x Environment approach. Developmental Psychobiology. DOI:10.1002/dev.21572


    Mandalaywala, T.M., Amodio, D.M. & Rhodes, M. (2017). Essentialism promotes racial prejudice by increasing endorsement of social hierarchies. Social Psychological and Personality Science. DOI:10.1177/1948550617707020


    Rhodes, M. & Mandalaywala, T.M. (2017). The development and developmental consequences of social essentialism. Invited review for WIREs Cognitive Science, e1437. doi:10.1002/wcs.1437


    Petrullo, L.A., Mandalaywala, T.M., Parker, K.J., Maestripieri, D., & Higham, J.P. (2016). Effects of early life experience on cortisol/salivary alpha-amylase asymmetry in free-ranging juvenile rhesus monkeys. Hormones and Behavior. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2016.05.004.


    Mandalaywala, T.M. & Rhodes, M. (2016). Racial essentialism is associated with prejudice towards Blacks in 5- and 6-year old White children. Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.


    Georgiev, A.V., Emery Thompson, M., Mandalaywala, T.M., & Maestripieri, D. (2015). Oxidative stress as an indicator of the costs of reproduction among free-ranging rhesus macaques. Journal of Experimental Biology, 218: 1981-1985.


    Mandalaywala, T. M., Fleener, C. E., & Maestripieri, D. (2015). Intelligence in nonhuman primates. In S. Goldstein & J. Naglieri (Eds.), Handbook of Intelligence: Evolutionary Theory, Historical Perspective, and Current Concepts (27-46). New York: Springer Books.


    Mandalaywala, T.M., Higham, J.P., Heistermann, M., Parker, K.J., & Maestripieri, D. (2014). Physiological and behavioural stress responses to weaning conflict in free-ranging primate infants. Animal Behaviour, 97: 241-247.


    Mandalaywala, T.M., Parker, K.J., & Maestripieri, D (2014). Early experience affects the strength of vigilance for threat in rhesus monkey infants. Psychological Science, 25: 1893-1902.


    Maclean, E.L., Mandalaywala, T.M., & Brannon, E.M. (2012). Variance-sensitive choice in lemurs: constancy trumps quantity. Animal Cognition, 15: 15-25.


    Mandalaywala, T.M., Higham, J.P., Heistermann, M. & Maestripieri, D. (2011). Infant bystanders modulate the influence of ovarian hormones on female socio-sexual behavior in free-ranging rhesus macaques. Behaviour, 148: 1137-1155.


    Higham, J.P., Barr, C.S., Hoffman, C.L., Mandalaywala, T.M., Parker, K.J., & Maestripieri, D. (2011). Mu-opiod receptor (OPRM1) variation, oxytocin levels and maternal attachment in free-ranging rhesus macaques. Behavioral Neuroscience, 152: 131-136.

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    301H Tobin Hall
    University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA 01003
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