Helana Girgis, Ph.D.

The Children’s Learning Lab investigates topics that cover young children’s cognitive development, specifically how they think and learn about their world. Most of the research involves preschoolers and elementary school aged children. My main line of research has been to understand how we reason and conceptualize foods. Given the number of unique properties associated with this category, it could be that we have a separate reasoning system that is solely dedicated to foods. So far, we’ve been examining children’s categorization strategies of different properties of foods, including its healthfulness, taste, origins, effect of transformations, and impact on the body. I’m also examining the influence of socio-cultural factors, which include geographic location and variations on access to and experience with foods. In pursuit of this goal, I’ve been conducting research on these topics in Egypt as well. My other lines of research focus on moral development in elementary school children and how preschoolers reason about ideas and idea ownership.

Girgis, H. & Nguyen, S. P. (2018). Shape or substance? Children’s strategy when labeling a food and its healthfulness, Cognitive Development, 48, 289-301. (pdf)

Nguyen, S. P., Gordon, C. L., Chevalier, T., & Girgis, H. (2016). Trust and doubt: An examination of children’s decision to believe what they are told about food. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 144, 66-83. (pdf)

Nguyen, S.P., Girgis, H., & Robinson, J. (2015). Predictors of children's food selection: The role of children's perceptions of the health and taste of foods. Food Preference and Quality, 40, 106-109. (pdf)

I am actively recruiting research assistants to work in the CLL. Students should be psychology majors and have successfully completed Statistical Methods (PSYC 2241). Preference is given to students who have also completed a developmental course, e.g., Child Development (PSYC 3323) or Lifespan (PSYC 3322), and interested in pursuing a graduate degree. Because the lab works with the community, dependability is a must.

Research assistants will be involved in every phase of the research process. It’s paramount that each phase you are involved in be handled both honestly and ethically. Your responsibilities will include:

· Complete CITI online training course before testing participants

· Do extensive online research for stimuli creation

· Use your artistic and creative skills to physically create the stimuli

· Help to create protocols/data sheets

· Test both child and adult participants

· Create SPSS files, code and enter data

· Help to analyze the data

· Take part in preparations at local and national professional conferences


In addition, it will be necessary to:

· Participate in rigorous training sessions for testing children

· Attend bi-weekly lab meetings

· Be prepared for lab meetings, e.g., do the journal/chapter readings, have suggestions/feedback on current and future research questions

· Have set weekly lab hours

· To leave available a few mornings each week if interested in testing children at schools


In addition to the specific skills gained from the hands-on work in the lab, you’ll:

· Develop critical thinking skills in relation to developmental issues, generate new ideas, and to consider alternate explanations when evaluating information

· Increase online thinking skills, actively take part in scientific discussions

· Present research at local and national conferences

· Scientific writing skills


This lab is productive and diverse with interests that span multiple issues of cognitive development. While the lab focuses on certain topics, I strongly encourage students who are established in the lab to follow their own interests and bring me research questions they are interested in answering. This could lead to potential collaboration on writing a manuscript for publication.


In addition to the host of these new skills, I hope you make new friends and have a great deal of fun throughout the whole process!

Lab positions tend to be open at the start of the fall semester. If interested in applying, please email helana.girgis@stockton.edu. Your email should include a resume with major GPA, list of psychology classes taken, and a cover letter. The cover letter should include why you are interested in working with the CLL, what your long term professional goals are, how this research experience will help you achieve them and a general outline of your availability during the school week.

Click this link to visit the website of the Children's Learning Lab. This website includes information about:

  • The mission of the lab
  • The members of the Children's Learning Lab Team
  • How parents, students and schools can get involved in the lab's research