Dr. Callaghan conducts research in two fields: symbolic development and prosocial development. An underlying aim of her research is to identify the origins of these fundamental, and inter-related, human behaviors. Symbolic representation sets humans apart from other species and binds humans to each other in families, communities and other cultural groups. Communication is the ultimate goal of symbolic systems, and it is in part through sharing of meaning that infants come to learn about the world, that novices come to acquire the knowledge of the experts, and that divergent perspectives can begin to converge. Prosocial behavior, like symbolic behavior, aims to relate to others in one’s group. Prosocial behavior has deep evolutionary roots, with other primate species also demonstrating some forms of sharing and helping behavior. Human prosociality diverges in some interesting ways from other species, and these differences suggest an important role for socialization, especially into the norms and traditional practices of one’s cultures. Dr. Callaghan takes a cultural developmental approach in her research, aiming to discover the ways in which cultural environments impact human symbolic and prosocial development beginning in infancy. She and her students conduct research in Canada, and in field sites in India and Peru.
In the 2015-16 academic year, Dr. Callaghan is on sabbatical in the Psychology Department, Harvard University. She will teach Cultural Psychology, PSYC 372 online in the Fall term & Human Development Across Cultures, PSYC 374 online in the Winter term.