Annie E. Wertz


Leader of the Max Planck Research Group
Naturalistic Social Cognition


Heidi Nassimi

Short CV:

2014–present, Research Group Leader, MPRG Naturalistic Social Cognition, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin
2009–2014, Postdoctoral Researcher, Infant Cognition Center, Yale University
2009, Ph.D., Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara
2003, B.A., Psychology, Boston University, summa cum laude, with distinction

Research Interests:

My research investigates how infants and young children think about and learn from other people in naturalistic circumstances. The primary focus of this work is the selective social learning strategies that humans use to acquire information about plants over the course of development. My work provided the first evidence that human infants do indeed possess behavioral and social learning strategies that are selective to plants (e.g., infants avoid plant dangers and selectively learn that some plants are edible). I investigate these plant-relevant learning rules using a combination of laboratory studies and naturalistic observations of infants, young children, and their parents. This research provides a window into the complex interplay of evolutionary and developmental factors that allow human beings to learn from others and accumulate cultural knowledge.

Selected Literature:

Wertz, A. E. (2019). How plants shape the mind. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 23, 528–531.

Elsner, C., & Wertz, A. E. (2019). The seeds of social learning: Infants exhibit more social looking for plants than other object types. Cognition, 183, 244–255.

Oña, L., Oña, L. S., & Wertz, A. E. (2019). The evolution of plant social learning through error minimization. Evolution & Human Behavior, 40, 447–456.

Wertz, A. E., & Wynn, K. (2019). Can I eat that too? 18-month-olds generalize social information about edibility to similar looking plants. Appetite, 138, 127–135.

Wertz, A. E., & Moya, C. (2019). Pathways to cognitive design. Behavioural Processes, 161, 73–86.

Włodarczyk, A., Elsner, C., Schmitterer, A., & Wertz, A. E. (2018). Every rose has its thorn: Infants' responses to pointed shapes in naturalistic contexts. Evolution & Human Behavior, 39, 583–593.

Pietraszewski, D., Wertz, A. E., Bryant, G. A., & Wynn, K. (2017). Three-month-old infants use vocal cues of body size. Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences, 284, 20170656.

Wertz, A. E., & Wynn, K. (2014). Selective social learning of plant edibility in 6- and 18-month-old infants. Psychological Science, 24, 874–882.

Wertz, A. E., & Wynn., K. (2014). Thyme to touch: Infants possess strategies that protect them from dangers posed by plants. Cognition, 130, 44–49.

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