Nicholaus Noles, PhD

Life Sciences Building, 306

(502) 852-5955


Ph.D. Psychology, Yale University, 2008

B.S. Psychology, University of Alabama - Birmingham, 2002

Dr. Noles will be accepting new graduate students for Fall 2015. Please contact him directly for more information.

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in exploring conceptual development, how mental representations form and change as children's brains develop and they accumulate new experiences. I investigate conceptual development by studying two topics that relate to conceptual development in different ways. In order to understand how different kinds of input influence category formation and evolution, I explore how labels and statistical information in the world interact (see Categories & Labels). This work focuses on how create and use "new" mental representations. Instead of creating new or artificial representations, my second line of research is focused on children's early emerging concepts of property and ownership. My goal is to understand conceptual development generally by 1) learning how children's categories form and change, and 2) exploring the functioning of early emerging, well established concepts.

Categories & Labels - Adults provide children with labels for people, places, things, and events from a very young age.I study how these labels influence, and are influenced by, the features and regularities that children experience in their environment.

Property & Ownership - The world around us is filled with people and property, and humans learn to navigate the complex web of relationships between people and property with little effort and almost zero formal education on the topic, and despite the fact that the links between people and property are both invisible and abstract, even young children can detect them and reason about them very effectively. I study how children's concepts of ownership and property emerge and develop over time.

Representative Publications

Gelman, S.A., Meyer, M.A., & Noles, N.S. (2013). History and essence in human cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36, 142-143.

Gelman, S.A., Manczak, E.M., & Noles, N.S. (2012). The nonobvious basis of ownership: Preschool children trace the history and value of owned objects. Child Development, 83, 1731-1747.

Noles, N.S., & Gelman, S.A. (2012a). Effects of categorical labels on similarity judgments: A critical analysis of similarity-based approaches. Developmental Psychology, 48, 890-6.

Noles, N.S., & Gelman, S.A. (2012b). Disentangling similarity judgments from pragmatic judgments: Response to Sloutsky and Fisher (2012). Developmental Psychology, 48, 901-6.

Noles, N.S., & Gelman, S.A. (2012c). Preschool children and adults flexibly shift their preference for auditory versus visual modalities, but do not exhibit auditory dominance. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 112, 338-50.

Noles, N.S., Keil, F.C., Bloom, P., & Gelman, S.A. (2012). Children’s and adults’ intuitions about who is entitled to own things. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 12, 265-286.

Courses Often Taught


  • Experimental


  • Social Cognition