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Patricia Ganea

Associate Professor (CSE/DPE)

Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study

Temporary Office: OISE Building
252 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Room 9-276

Temporary Lab Space: OISE
Rooms 9-281, 283, 285
Tel: 416-934-4502
Fax: 416-934-4500

Website: Language & Learning Lab




Cognitive development:

  • early symbolic development
  • theory of mind development
  • science learning in young children

Assistant Professor Patricia Ganea


Research Interests

My primary research area is early cognitive development. I investigate the processes involved in young children's learning about the world through symbolic means, such as language, pictures, videos, and replica objects. I am especially interested in children's use of language to think and communicate about what is perceptually not present. Developing the ability to communicate about absent objects and events is a major cognitive achievement, one that enables children to learn about the world indirectly. My research focuses on the social, linguistic and representational factors that influence children’s learning about the world. I am also interested in how children develop an uderstanding of the pragmatics of language and of social cognition.


Language development:

  • children's understanding of absent references
  • early word learning
  • pragmatics development

Research Projects/Activities

From Child to Scientist: Using symbolic media to promote science education in young children (Early Researcher Award, Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation 2014-2019)
Toddler's use of language to update mental representations (SSHRC 2012-2016)
Young children's learning from picture books (SSHRC 2012-2015)
Pragmatic language abilities in non-affected siblings (SSHRC SIG 2012-2014)

Representative Publications

(student trainees are marked with *)

*Walker, C., Ganea, P. A., & Gopnik, A. (in press). Learning to learn from stories: Children’s developing sensitivity to the causal structure of fictional stories. Child Development.

Ganea P.A., *Canfield, C.F., *Simons-Ghafari, K. & *Chou, T. (2014). Do cavies talk?: The effect of anthropomorphic books on children’s knowledge about animals. Front. Psychol. 5:283. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00283

Keates, J., Graham, S., & Ganea, P. A. (in press). Infants transfer nonobvious properties from pictures to real-world objects. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

Khu, M., Graham, S.A., & Ganea, P.A., (2014). Learning from picture books: Infants' use of naming information. Frontiers in Psychology, 5:144. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00144

*Galazka, M. & Ganea, P. A. (2014). The Role of Representational Strength in Verbal Updating: Evidence from 19-and 24-month-olds. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 121, 156-168 

Kelemen, D., Emmons, N., Seston, R. & Ganea, P. A. (2014). Young children can be taught basic natural selection using a picture storybook intervention. Psychological Science. doi:10.1177/0956797613516009

*Osina, M. A., Saylor, M. M. and Ganea, P. A. (2014), Object Locations, Identity and Absent Reference Understanding at 12 Months. Infancy, 19, 65–81.

*Canfield, F. C. & Ganea, P. A. (2013) “You could call it magic”: What parents and siblings tell preschoolers about absent entities. Journal of Cognition and Development. DOI: 10.1080/15248372.2013.777841

Ganea, P. A. and Saylor, M. M. (2013), Representational Constraints on Language Development: Thinking and Learning About Absent Things. Child Development Perspectives, 7, 227–231. (author order is alphabetical) 

Ganea, P. A. & Harris, P. H. (2013) Early limits on the verbal updating of an object’s location. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 114, 89-101. 

*Osina, M. Saylor, M.M., & Ganea, P. A. (2013). When familiar is not better: 12-month-olds respond to talk about absent objects. Developmental Psychology, 49, 138-145. 

Ganea, P. A. & Saylor, M. M. (2013) Talking about the near and dear: Infants' Comprehension of Displaced Speech. Developmental Psychology, 49, 1299-1307.

*Walker, C., *Walker, L., & Ganea, P. A. Experience with pictures facilitates symbolic understanding in young children: Evidence from Tanzania (2013). Developmental Psychology, 49, 1315-1324.

*Blake, P., Ganea,P. A., & Harris, P. L. (2012). Possession in not always the law: With age, preschoolers increasingly use verbal information to identify who owns what. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 113, 259-272. 

Ganea, P. A., Ma, L., & DeLoache, J. S. (2011). Young children's learning and transfer of biological information from picture books to real animals. Child Development, 82, 1421-1433.

Ganea, P. A., Koenig, M. A., Gordon, M.K. (2011). Changing your mind about things unseen: Toddlers’ sensitivity to prior reliability. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 109, 445-453. 

Saylor, M. M., Ganea, P. A., & Vasquez, M. (2011). What’s mine is mine: Twelve-month-olds use possessive pronouns to identify referents. Developmental Science, 14, 859-864. 

Tare, M., Chiong, C., Ganea, P. A., & DeLoache, J. S. (2010). Less is More: How manipulative features affect children’s learning from picture books. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 31, 395-400. 

Ganea, P. A. & Harris, P. L. (2010). Not doing what you are told: Early perseverative errors in updating mental representations via language. Child Development, 81, 457-463. 

Ganea, P. A., Allen, M. A., Butler, L., Carey, S., & DeLoache, J. S. (2009). Toddlers’ referential understanding of pictures. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 104, 283-295. 

Ma, L. & Ganea, P. A. (2009). Dealing with conflicting information: Young children’s reliance on what they see versus what they are told. Developmental Science, 2009, 1-10. 

DeLoache, J. S. & Ganea, P. A. (2009). Symbol-based learning in infancy. In A. Needham & A. Woodward (Eds.), Learning and the infant mind. Oxford, Oxford University Press. 

Ganea, P. A., Pickard, M. & DeLoache, J. S. (2008). Transfer between picture books and the real world by very young children. Journal of Cognition and Development, 9, 46-66. 

DeLoache, J. S., Ganea, P. A., & Jaswal, V. (2008). Early learning through language. In Colombo J, McCardle P, Freund L (Eds.), Measuring language in infancy. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. 

Ganea, P. A., Shutts, K., Spelke, E., & DeLoache, J, S. (2007). Thinking of things unseen: Infants’ use of language to update object representations. Psychological Science, 18(8), 734-739. 

Ganea, P. A., & Saylor, M. M. (2007). Infants’ use of shared linguistic information to clarify ambiguous requests. Child Development, 78(2), 493-502. 

Saylor, M. M., & Ganea, P. A. (2007). Infants interpret ambiguous requests for absent objects. Developmental Psychology, 43(3), 696-704. 

DeLoache, J. S., & Ganea, P. A. (2007). The early growth of symbolic understanding and use: A tribute to Ann Brown. In Campione, J. C., Metz, K. E., & Palincsar, A. S. (Eds.), Children’s learning in the laboratory and in the classroom: Essays in honor of Ann Brown. New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum & Associates. 

Ganea, P. A. (2005). Contextual factors affect absent reference comprehension in 14-month-olds. Child Development, 76(5), 989-998.

Ganea, P. A., Lillard, A. S., Turkheimer, E. (2004). Preschooler’s understanding of the role of mental states and action in pretense. Journal of Cognition and Development, 5, 213-238.















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