Associate Professor of Psychology Rachel White and Kate Bruno ’23 recently presented a poster at the Society for Research in Child Development conference in Salt Lake City.
White and Bruno, along with Andrew Harrell ’23 and Paige McKenzie ’25, co-authored the poster, titled “Parents’ Use of Third-person Speech Predicts Parent and Child Emotion Regulation.” It describes the group’s 2022 summer science fellowship work that explored children’s self-control and how it can be affected by pretend play among children and third-person speech among caregivers.
In addition, White recently published a paper on the value of pretend play in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. “Pretend play as abstraction: Implications for early development and beyond” was co-authored with Tracy Gleason of Wellesley College.
The authors say that early in development, learning to separate thoughts from reality is practiced in pretend play and is associated with changes in cognition, as well as in emotional and social domains. As children develop further, pretend play could help them learn perspective-taking, as well as how to recognize and regulate emotion, and how to cooperate and negotiate.
They added that “the abstraction skills promoted by early pretend play might underlie creativity, innovation, and our capacity to feel empathy and moral obligation to others in later childhood and adulthood.”