Russel Lecture to explore children’s insight into the human mind


Psychology and linguistics professor Susan Gelman will discuss how children can provide valuable insight into the human mind during the University of Michigan’s 96th Henry Russel Lecture.

The virtual event will be livestreamed on YouTube from 3:30-4:30 p.m. March 9. Viewers can register to receive a link to the livestream.

Susan Gelman
Susan Gelman

The Henry Russel Lectureship is the university’s highest honor for senior members of its active faculty. It is awarded annually to a faculty member with exceptional achievements in research, scholarship or creative endeavors, as well as an outstanding record of distinguished teaching, mentoring and service to U-M and the wider community.

Gelman is the Heinz Werner Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Linguistics and a professor of psychology and linguistics in LSA. Her lecture is titled, “From Socrates to Darwin and Beyond: What Children Can Teach Us About the Human Mind.”

Also at the event, four faculty members will receive Henry Russel Awards, the university’s highest honor for faculty members at the early to mid-stages of their careers.

The recipients are:

  • José Casas, assistant professor of theatre, School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
  • Erin A. Cech, assistant professor of sociology, LSA, and faculty associate in the Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research.
  • Matthew Davis, associate professor of nursing, School of Nursing, and associate professor of learning health sciences, Medical School.
  • Johanna Mathieu, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, College of Engineering.

In her lecture, Gelman will examine the origins of the human capacity to think about observable experiences in ways that aren’t obvious, according to a description provided by the Office of University Development.

She will discuss evidence that, contrary to what is traditionally assumed, “young children often extend beyond the tangible ‘here-and-now’ to think about hidden, invisible, abstract entities.”

“Professor Gelman emphasizes that if you want to learn about the human mind, children provide a unique and especially valuable perspective,” the description of her lecture said. “They illustrate in sharp relief our species’ rich learning capacities as well as our reasoning biases and limitations.”

For the past 30 years, Gelman has been at the forefront of research and theory on cognitive development. She joined U-M in 1984. Her service to the university has included appointments as associate dean and interim dean of LSA.

In addition, Gelman is a fellow of the American Society of Arts and Sciences and the American Psychological Association, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. She was named a William James Fellow by the Association for Psychological Science.


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.