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Jennifer Barnes

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Jennifer Barnes

jennifer barnes


Phone: 405-325-1942

Office: Dale Hall Tower 737


As human beings, we spend an incredible amount of time engaged with things that aren’t real: daydreams, novels, and fictional movies and television, just to name a few. My research interests focus on the cognitive science of fiction and storytelling, investigating a variety of questions such as: Why do people like fictional books, movies, and television shows, even though they know they aren’t real? How is our sense of “fictional morality” different than real-world morality, and why do we sometimes like fictional characters who are not moral, when we probably would not care for them if they were real people? How do adults and children who frequently engage in imaginary worlds differ from those who do not? Do children with imaginary friends grow up to read more fiction? Do they grow up to write more fiction? What is the psychological and cognitive profile of professional fiction writers? What can the children’s book market tell us about cognitive development? I explore these questions by investigating how our relationship with the un-real changes across the course of development, and at this point, my work focuses primarily on neurotypical preschoolers, elementary school students, and adults. Additional interests include children’s understanding of intellectual property and “ideas” more broadly, including how understanding of “ideas” is distinguished from other domains of theory of mind, such as understanding of knowledge and beliefs, and work focused on moral development.