Graduate Students

Rick Ahl
“I study how young children understand the relationship between observable effects and the underlying causal mechanisms that enable them. Specifically, can children use information about a machine’s functional output to make inferences about the complexity of its ‘inside parts’? Do children, like adults, believe that machines performing complex sets of actions must have complex internal mechanisms?” Rick can be reached at
Matthew Fisher
“Broadly, my research looks at how people make sense of a complex world and the inherent tradeoffs of the strategies they use to do so. In particular, I examine the effects of acquiring information from external sources  (i.e. the Internet) and other people (i.e. through argumentation). Relatedly, I am interested in how well people can assess their own explanatory knowledge. Why is it that people fail to realize the gaps in their own knowledge? I look at the ways in which education, memory, and emotional investment might help answer this question.” Matt can be reached at
To learn more about Matthew’s research, you can visit his website here.
Sam Johnson
“In the face of the world’s daunting complexity, we are able to make sense of things in a seemingly effortless way. I study how people marshal causal and explanatory reasoning to understand experience, and especially how people evaluate explanations and adopt them as beliefs. I am also interested in how explanatory reasoning interacts with social cognition through lay theories of decision-making.” Sam can be reached at
To learn more about Sam’s research, you can visit his website here.
Angie Johnston
“My research centers around the question ‘How do people learn accurate information from others, and how can we strengthen this ability?’ Although there are clear benefits to using others as sources of information, there are at least two problems that can arise. First, information provided by others is fallible and can easily be inaccurate if the source is mistaken, incompetent, or deceitful. Second, even when information that others provide is accurate, it does not necessarily qualify as helpful information that can be understood, remembered, and generalized.” Angie can be reached at
To learn more about Angie’s research, you can visit her website here.