Nicholaus Noles, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Department Chair

Psi Chi Faculty Advisor

Picture of Nicholaus Noles

Office: Life Sciences Building, 111

Phone: (502) 852-5955


Knowledge in Development (KID) Lab


Please contact Dr. Noles directly with inquiries about graduate training.


Ph.D. Psychology, Yale University, 2008

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

Research Interests:

I am broadly interested in exploring children's social-cognitive development, how mental representations form and change as children's brains develop and they accumulate new experiences. I am particularly interested in how children categorize and make judgements about other people. The cognitive mechanisms that make us good at understanding one another are the same mechanisms that produce bias and prejudice. By understanding how children think about people and social structures, I believe that we can better understand each other. My research explores the following topics:

Social Categories & Intersectionality - Every person is a collection of different identities, but how do we learn to represent the complex idea that one person can be in many different social categories at the same time? My research explores how children acquire social categories, such as race and gender, and how they think about intersectionality.

Racism, Sexism, and other ‘isms - Social categories are powerful tools for understanding other people, but these categories also create cognitive boundaries that lead to interpersonal and structural bias. By studying how children think about race, gender, and other social categories, I hope to better understand - and combat - group-level bias.

Power & Status - Social categories are often embedded in larger social structures. Governments, workplaces, schools, and even families are structured in this way, with some individuals holding more power, and sometimes more responsibility, than others. My research explores when and how we learn about hierarchical structures, and how these structures influence the ways in which people think about power and status.

Concepts of Ownership - Property is embedded in human interpersonal relationships. People share and give gifts, and the way that people treat property is psychological linked to how they think and feel about people. I study how children's concepts of ownership and property emerge and develop over time with a focus on children’s intuitions about generosity, gratitude, gifts, and sharing.


Nancekivell, S.E., Davidson, N.S., Noles, N.S., & Gelman, S.A. (2023). Preliminary evidence for progressions in ownership reasoning over the preschool period. Developmental Psychology, 59, 1116-1125.

Nancekivell, S.E., Davidson, N.S., Noles, N.S., & Gelman, S.A. (2023). “She should get her own cat”: Parent-child conversations about ownership and reciprocity. Cognitive Development, 66, 434-445.

Noles, N.S., & McDermott, C.H. (2023). Children’s understanding of gratitude, generosity, and reciprocity. Cognitive Development, 66, 101322.

Norris, M.N., McDermott, C.H., & Noles, N.S. (2023). Listen to your mother: Children use hierarchical social roles to guide their judgements about people. Journal of Cognition and Development, doi: 10.1080/15248372.2023.2176854.

Norris, M.N., & Noles, N.S. (2022). ‘An ounce of loyalty’: Children’s expectations about loyalty and preference for in-group members and authority figures. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 44, 107-113.

Noles, N.S., Gelman, S.A., & Stilwell, S. (2021). To give or receive? The role of giver versus receiver on object tracking and object preferences in children and adults. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 21, 369-388.

Norris, M., & Noles, N.S. (2021). Can a leopard change its spots? Only some children use counterevidence to update their beliefs about people. Cognitive Development, 58, 101037.

Marchak, K.A., Laughlin, M., Gelman, S.A., & Noles, N.S. (2020). Beliefs about the persistence of history in objects and spaces in the United States and India. Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology, 51, 309-332.

Noles, N.S. (2019). Salience or centrality: Why do some features influence inductive generalization more than others? Developmental Psychology, 55, 612-622.

Noles, N.S., & Keil, F.C. (2019). Exploring the first possessor bias in children. PLoS ONE, 14, 1-13.

McDermott, C.H., & Noles, N.S. (2018). The role of age, theory of mind, and linguistic ability in children’s understanding of ownership. PLoS ONE, 13, 1-10.

Gelman, S.A., Martinez, M., Davidson, N.S., & Noles, N.S. (2018). Developing digital privacy: Children’s moral judgments concerning mobile GPS devices. Child Development, 89, 17-26.

Gelman, S.A., Manczak, E.M., Was, A.M., & Noles, N.S. (2016). Children seek historical traces of owned objects. Child Development, 87, 239-255.

Noles, N.S., & Danovitch, J.H. (2016). Ultrasociality and the division of cognitive labor. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 39, 31-32.

Danovitch, J. H., Noles, N. S., & Shafto, P. (2015). How children seek out information from human and technological informants. In G. Airenti, B. G. Bara, & G. Sandini (Eds.) Proceedings of the EuroAsianPacific Joint Conference on Cognitive Science (pp. 407-412). Torino, Italy: Cognitive Science Society.

Gelman, S.A., Frazier, B.N., Noles, N.S., Manczak, E., & Stillwell, S.M. (2015). How much would children pay for Harry Potter’s glasses? Developing an appreciation for the value of authentic objects. Journal of Cognition and Development, 16, 97-117.

Noles, N.S., Danovitch, J.H., & Shafto, P. (2015). Children’s trust in technological and human informants. In D.C. Noelle, R. Dale, A.S. Warlaumont, J. Yoshimi, T. Matlock, C.D. Jennings, & P.P. Maglio (Eds.). Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Pasadena, CA: Cognitive Science Society.

Noles, N.S. & Danovitch, J.H. (2015). Children’s inductive inference are influenced by some features more than others. In G. Airenti, B. Bara, & G. Sandini (Eds.), Proceedings of the EuroAsianPacific Joint Conference on Cognitive Science, 4th European Conference on Cognitive Science, 11th International Conference on Cognitive Science (pp. 419-424). Torino, Italy: Cognitive Science Society.

Danovitch, J. H., & Noles, N. S. (2014). Categorization ability, but not theory of mind, contributes to children’s developing understanding of expertise. In P. Bello, M. Guarini, M. McShane, & B. Scassellati (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2097-2012). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Gelman, S.A., Noles, N.S., & Stillwell, S. (2014). Tracking the actions and possessions of agents. Topics in Cognitive Sciences, 6, 599-614.

Noles, N.S., & Danovitch, J.H. (2014). Owning up to the role of historical information. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34, 497-498.

Noles, N.S., & Gelman, S.A. (2014). You can’t always get what you want: Children’s intuitions about ownership and desire. Cognitive Development, 31, 59-68.

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.

Gelman, S.A., & Noles, N.S. (2011). Domains and naïve theories. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 2: n/a. doi: 10.1002/wcs.124.

Noles, N., & Keil, F.C. (2011). Exploring ownership in a developmental context. In H. S. Ross & O. Friedman (Eds.), The developmental origins of ownership of property - New Directions for Child & Adolescent Development (pp. 91-103). San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass.

Mitroff, S.R., Scholl, B.J., & Noles, N.S. (2007). Object files can be purely episodic. Perception, 36, 1730-1735.

Noles, N.S., Scholl, B.J., & Mitroff, S.R. (2005). The persistence of object file representations. Perception & Psychophysics, 67, 324 - 334.

Noles, N.S., & Scholl, B.J., (2005). What’s in an object file? Integral vs. separable features. Journal of Vision, 5, 614 – 614.

Scholl, B.J., Noles, N.S., Pasheva, V., & Sussman, R. (2003). Talking on a cellular telephone dramatically increases “sustained inattentional blindness.” Journal of Vision, 3, 156-156.

Courses Offered


  • Cognitive Processes
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Introduction to Psychology


  • Concepts and Categories
  • Social Cognition