Sandra Waxman

Sandra R. Waxman

Professor, Learning Sciences
Professor, Psychology

Swift Hall
Room 211
2029 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-2705
Phone: (847) 467-2293
Fax: (847) 491-7859

Sandra Waxman is a professor of psychology with a joint appointment in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. She received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and taught at Harvard University until beginning her affiliation with NU in 1992. She is an APA Fellow and an APS Fellow, and is a recipient of both a Cattell Award through the American Psychological Society and a Guggenheim Fellowship. 

Professor Waxman’s research focuses on two areas of study: biological thought and culture, and early linguistic and conceptual development. Recent work in biological thought explores how notions of the natural world unfold -- across development, across cultures, and across languages, exploring fundamental questions, including, “What is the place of humans within the natural world?,” “What does it mean to be ‘alive’?,” and “How do children across cultures develop these concepts?” Professor Waxman’s research in Linguistic and Conceptual Development employs both developmental and cross-linguistic evidence. Both are essential in discovering the origin of infants' early expectations, identifying which might be universal, and specifying how these are shaped by experience with the native language under acquisition. This basic research may serve as a springboard for assessing young children being raised in bilingual environments and those with specific language impairments.

Department of Psychology webpage

Project on Child Development
2011 - Louis W. Menk Chair in Psychology – Endowed Chair, Northwestern University.

2011 - American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow.

2011 - American Academy of Arts and Sciences Member.

2008 - Ann L. Brown Award for Excellence in Developmental Research, University of IL.

2007 - Guggenheim Fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation

2007 - James McKeen Cattell Award. American Psychological Society.

2005 - American Psychological Society Fellow


Year Degree Institution
1985 PhD University of Pennsylvania
1981 MA Johns Hopkins University
1976 BS University of Pennsylvania

Selected Publications
Waxman, S., Herrmann, P., Woodring, J., Medin, D. (2014). Humans (really) are animals: Picture-book reading influences five-year-old urban children’s construal of the relation between humans and non-human animals. Frontiers in Developmental Psychology: doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00172.

Ferguson, B., Graf, E., & Waxman, S. R. (2014). Infants use known verbs to learn novel nouns: Evidence from 15- and 19-month-olds. Cognition, 131(1): 139-146.

Geraghty, K., Waxman, S.R., & Gelman, S. (2014). Learning words from pictures: 15- and 17-month-old infants appreciate the referential and symbolic links among words, pictures, and objects. Cognitive Development, 32: 1-11.

Dehghani, M., Bang, M., Medin, D.L., Marin, A., Leddon, E., Waxman, S. (2013). Epistemologies in the Text of Children’s Books: Native and Non-Native Authored Books. International Journal of Science Education, 35(13): 2133-2151.

Arunachalam, S. Leddon, E., Song, H., Lee, Y., & Waxman, S. R. (2013). Doing more with less: Verb learning in Korean-acquiring 24-month-olds. Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics, 20(4): 292-304, DOI: 10.1080/10489223.2013.828059.

Waxman, S. Fu, X., Arunachalam, S. Leddon, E. & Geraghty, K. (2013). Nouns before verbs? Fresh insights and new cross-linguistic evidence. Child Development Perspectives: Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/cdep.1203.

ojalehto, b., Waxman, S.R. & Medin, D.L. (2013). Teleological reasoning about nature: intentional design or relational perspectives?. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17(4): 166-171.

Ferry, A., Hespos, S., Waxman, S. (2013). Non-human primate vocalizations support categorization in very young human infants. PNAS,110(38): 15231–15235.

Research Interests
Language and conceptual development, early cognitive development, language and thought.


Employment History
1992 1997 Northwestern University
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology.
1991 1992 Harvard University
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education.
1989 1992 Harvard University
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology.
1986 1992 Harvard University
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology.

Last Updated: 2015-01-09 14:20:44