2018 William James Fellow

Linda B. Smith

Indiana University Bloomington

Linda B. Smith, Distinguished Professor at Indiana University Bloomington, is an internationally recognized leader in cognitive science and cognitive development. Taking a complex systems view, she seeks to understand the developmental process and, in particular, the cascading interactions of perception, action, and attention as they foster word learning in infants. Her studies of the shape bias in early noun learning reframed thinking on how children learn to learn, showing that domain-general and incremental processes could build learning systems that generalize rapidly and robustly. Unsatisfied with merely documenting age-related stages of development, she carried out systematic study of multicausal and multileveled processes of learning and change. Her explorations into the interactions between language and thought, thought and action, and action and perception have provided an insightful, grounded, and coherent account of development of cognition.

Smith’s world-leading theoretical and experimental research combines computational modeling and behavioral studies. Working with colleagues, she has pioneered new methodology, such as the use of head cameras, head-mounted eye-trackers, and motion sensors to capture the statistical regularities in infants’ and toddlers’ everyday learning environments. This research has revealed the important and critical differences in the content and dynamics of everyday experience that govern development as the learner progresses from infancy through toddlerhood toward maturity. Her program of research documents developmental interactions across visual learning about objects and object names, sustained attention, and social interactions.

She is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Cognitive Science Society. She is an elected member of the Society of Experimental Psychologists and the recipient of the David E. Rumelhart Prize in Cognitive Science, among other awards.