Professor Sarah Beck PhD

Professor Sarah Beck

School of Psychology
Professor of Cognitive Development

Contact details

Address
School of Psychology
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

Sarah Beck - Research in 60 seconds video

Sarah's research examines how we think imaginatively about the real world. She is especially interested in how children become able to speculate about what might have been (counterfactual thinking) and how they think creatively to solve novel problems, particularly those involving tools. She takes a developmental approach, focusing on how children’s imaginative thinking changes and what cognitive factors influence this change. She collaborates to take a broad approach to cognition in clinical groups and recently, in nonhuman animals. More information about my research and my lab can be found at www.sarahruthbeck.net.

Feedback and office hours

I set office hours during term time. For meetings at other times please contact me by email.

Qualifications

  • PhD (Birmingham)
  • BA (Oxford)

Biography

Dr Beck completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Oxford in Psychology and Philosophy (PPP) before moving to become a research assistant at the University of Birmingham, where she has studied and worked ever since.

Teaching

Sarah Beck teaches a 3rd year optional module on comparative and developmental cognition: Higher Cognitive Functions.

Research

I am interested in the ability to think about things outside the here and now: to imagine alternative possibilities and worlds. I am particularly interested in how children speculate about events in the past (counterfactual thinking) and their innovative problem solving. I explore the cognitive components of these higher cognitive functions in children and adults. I also collaborate to work with atypical populations.

More information about my research and my lab can be found at www.sarahruthbeck.net

 

Other activities

  • Awarded the 2011 Margaret Donaldson Early Career Prize by the British Psychological Society Developmental Section
  • Psychology Programme Chair for the for the European Society for Philosophy and Psychology between 2008 – 2011
  • College of Life and Environmental Sciences Equality & Diversity Lead

Publications

Recent publications

Article

Perry, V, Ellis, K, Moss, J, Beck, SR, Singla, G, Crawford, H, Waite, J, Richards, C & Oliver, C 2022, 'Executive function, repetitive behaviour and restricted interests in neurodevelopmental disorders', Research in Developmental Disabilities, vol. 122, 104166. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2021.104166

Osuna-Mascaró, AJ, Mundry, R, Tebbich, S, Beck, S & Auersperg, AMI 2022, 'Innovative composite tool use by Goffin’s cockatoos (Cacatua goffiniana)', Scientific Reports, vol. 12, 1510. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-05529-9

Reindl, E, Tennie, C, Apperly, I, Lugosi, Z & Beck, S 2022, 'Young children spontaneously invent three different types of associative tool use behaviour', Evolutionary Human Sciences, vol. 4, e5. https://doi.org/10.1017/ehs.2022.4

McCormack, T, Feeney, A & Beck, S 2020, 'Regret and decision making: a developmental perspective', Current Directions in Psychological Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721420917688

Beck, SR & Rafetseder, E 2019, 'Are counterfactuals in and about time? Commentary on Hoerl & McCormack', Behavioral and Brain Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X19000591

McCormack, T, O'Connor, E, Cherry, J, Beck, S & Feeney, A 2019, 'Experiencing regret about a choice helps children learn to delay gratification', Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 179, pp. 162-175. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2018.11.005

Cutting, N, Apperly, I, Chappell, J & Beck, S 2019, 'Is tool modification more difficult than innovation?', Cognitive Development, vol. 52, 100811. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogdev.2019.100811

Feeney, A, Travers, E, O'Connor, E, Beck, S & McCormack, T 2018, 'Knowing when to hold ‘em: regret and the relation between missed opportunities and risk taking in children, adolescents and adults', Cognition & emotion, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 608-615. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2017.1326373

Beck, S 2017, 'Interaction between comparative psychology and cognitive development', Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, vol. 16, pp. 138-141. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2017.07.002

Whalley, C, Cutting, N & Beck, S 2017, 'The effect of prior experience on children’s tool innovation', Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 161, pp. 81-94. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2017.03.009

Reindl, E, Apperly, I, Beck, S & Tennie, C 2017, 'Young children copy cumulative technological design in the absence of action information', Scientific Reports, vol. 7, 1788. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-01715-2

Comment/debate

Beck, S & Harris, P 2021, 'The development of the imagination and imaginary worlds', Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Letter

Beck, SR 2016, 'Counterfactuals matter: a reply to Weisberg & Gopnik', Cognitive Science, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 260-261. https://doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12242

Paper

Xie, Y & Beck, S 2022, 'The Bidirectional Relation Between Counterfactual Thinking and Closeness, Controllability, and Exceptionality'. <https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.732870/full#h1>

Review article

Beck, S 2020, 'The subject of children’s counterfactual thoughts', Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1037/cns0000235

View all publications in research portal

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