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Susan Carey

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Institutions  Harvard University
Name  Susan Carey
Fields  Developmental psychology

Residence  Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Education  Harvard University (1971), Radcliffe College
Awards  Rumelhart Prize, Jean Nicod Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences, US & Canada
Books  The Origin of Concepts, Conceptual Change in Childhood, Hands‑on Alphabet Activities f, Hands‑On Word Family Ac
Similar People  Elizabeth Spelke, Renee Baillargeon, Karen Wynn, Paul Bloom, David Rumelhart

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Susan E. Carey (born 1942) is an American psychologist. She is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. She is an expert in language acquisition and children's development of biological concepts and is known for introducing the concept of fast mapping, whereby children learn the meanings of words after a single exposure. Her research focuses on analyzing philosophical concepts, and conceptual changes in science over time. She has conducted experiments on infants, toddlers, adults, and non-human primates.


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She was born in 1942. Her parents were William and Mary. Later, her father remarried to a woman, Joan, who currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Carey's studies focus on the development of children and adults and the cultural construction of concepts over time.

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Carey received a B.A. from Radcliffe College in 1964, a Fulbright scholarship to study in University of London in 1965, and a Ph.D. in Experimental psychology from Harvard University in 1971. She was employed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1972 to 1996 in the Psychology Department of Brain and Cognitive development and New York University from 1996 to 2001 before she joined the faculty at Harvard University in 2001.

On returning to Harvard, Carey began working alongside Elizabeth Spelke, and they started a Developmental Studies lab. Carey also studied alongside George Miller, Jerome Butler, and Roger Brown. She conducted experiments on infants, toddlers, adults, and non-human primates. Carey coined the term "Quinian bootstrapping," a bootstrapping process that historians and philosophers look at on conceptual change.

Carey is a member of the American Philosophical Society, National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Educational Sciences of Ukraine, and the British Academy. Her research analyzes philosophical concepts, and conceptual changes in science over time. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001. Carey is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received many academic awards and distinctions, including the Jean Nicod Prize for philosophy of mind in 1998. She was the first woman to receive the Rumelhart Prize, in 2009, which has been given annually since 2001 for significant contributions to the theoretical foundation of human cognition.

She is married to the professor of philosophy Ned Block (NYU). Carey authored Conceptual Change in Childhood, which reconciles Piaget's work on animism with later work on children's knowledge of biological concepts. She also authored The Origin of Concepts for which she won the 2010 Eleanor Maccoby Book Award from the American Psychological Association.


When Susan Carey began her career she served on a few Editorial Boards. Some of the boards she was on were for the Psychological Review, Psychological Science, Journal of Acquisition, and Development Psychology. Susan Carey and Elsa Bartlett were at Harvard University when they created the term "Fast mapping" in 1978. This term refers to the hypothesized mental process where a new concept is learned only based on a single exposure. Susan Carey wrote a book during her career as a psychologist, which was called Conceptual Change in Childhood. This book was about the cognitive differences between children and adults. It is a case study about children's acquisition of biological knowledge and analyzes the ways the knowledge is restructured during the development. Susan Carey wrote another book called "the Origin of Concepts" which shows the basis of development of cognitive science.

In her professional experience she started out as an assistant professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) between 1972 and 1977. She then went to an associate professor at MIT in 1977 to 1984. Instead of being in the psychology department in 1984 she became a professor in the MIT's department of brain and cognitive sciences until 1996. She was a professor at NYU (New York University) for the department of psychology from 1996 to 2001, after her career at NYU she had moved to Harvard and is still currently teaching.


Susan Carey has received many fellowships and honors. These fellowships and honors include: Radcliff Institute Fellowship (1976-1978), Sloane Fellow (1980-1981), Fellow: Institute for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences (1984-1985), Cattell Fellowship (1995-1996), Nicod Prize (1998), Society of Cognitive Neuroscience, George A Miller Lecturer (1998), Guggenheim Fellowship (1999-2000), National Academy of Education (1999), Society for Experimental Psychology (1999), American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2001), William James Fellow, American Psychology Society (2002), The British Academy, Corresponding Fellow (2007), David E. Rumelhart Prize (2008), Ottawa Township High School Hall of Fame (2009), Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, American Psychological Association (2009), Eleanor Maccoby Award for the Best Book in Development Psychology (APA, 2010), and Cognitive Development Society Book Award (2001)


Papers written as sole author

  • 2015 [1] The science of cognitive science
  • 2014 [2] On Learning New Primitives in the Language of Thought: Reply to Rey
  • 2011 [3] Concept Innateness, Concept Continuity, and Bootstrapping: A Response to Commentaries on The Origin of Concepts
  • 2011 [4] The Origin of Concepts
  • 2010 [5] Beyond Fast Mapping
  • 2009 [6] Where our number concepts come from
  • 2009 [7] Math schemata and the origins of number representations
  • 2004 [8] Bootstrapping and the origins of concepts
  • 2002 [9] Evidence for numerical abilities in young infants: A fatal flaw?
  • 2001 [10] Evolutionary and Ontogenetic Foundations of Arithmetic
  • 2000 [11] Science education as conceptual change
  • 2000 [12] The origin of concepts
  • 1998 [13] Knowledge of number: Its evolution and ontogenesis
  • 1997 [14] Do constraints on word meaning reflect prelinguistic cognitive architecture?
  • 1994 [15] Does learning a language require conceptual change?
  • 1992 [16] Becoming a face expert
  • 1988 [17] Conceptual differences between children and adults
  • 1986 [18] Cognitive science and science education
  • References

    Susan Carey Wikipedia