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Kimberly E. Vanderbilt

Kimberly E. Vanderbilt

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Office: SBSB 3226

Kimberly E. Vanderbilt

I joined the Cal State San Marcos Psychology Department in 2013. My area of specialization is in social cognitive development. I completed my graduate and undergraduate training at the University of California, San Diego. My research focuses on how children (and people in general) learn to reason about the thoughts and behaviors of others. Particularly, I am interested in how young children learn to judge the reliability of sources who provide information, as well as how children make inferences about the mental states of such sources.

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2008-2013       Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
                       Experimental Psychology 
                       Advisors: Gail Heyman and David Liu

2007-2008       M.A., University of California, San Diego
                       Experimental Psychology

2003-2007       B.S., University of California, San Diego
                       Psychology, with departmental honors
                       minor in Anthropology

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Navigating the Social World

    goofy   snowwhite     pinocchio

Knowing Whom to Trust: The ability to judge the reliability of sources is of the utmost importance in social life. Because social life requires that we absorb information at a rate far exceeding our ability to gain information firsthand, we often rely on other people to provide us with information about the world. For example, we commonly rely on others to teach us about the existence of microorganisms, events in national history, and even tomorrow’s weather forecast. Children especially, must rapidly acquire a great deal of information about the world, and often rely on other people to teach them such information. Although the transmission of information between individuals and across generation affords us many benefits (both as individuals and as a species) there are also inherent dangers to accepting information from others. As adults, we know to be skeptical of the information we receiver from others, or risk being misinformed or misled. But when do children learn this critical social skill? When do children learn to be skeptical of the information others provide? My research addresses the nature and development of children’s skepticism toward unreliable sources, and particularly, children’s reasoning about deceptive sources. As part of this research program, I have investigated whether children trust sources they have seen be deceptive, what factors influence children’s selective trust, and how this understanding relates to other social and cognitive abilities such as theory of mind and inhibitory control. The central goals of my research are to better characterize the development of skepticism in young children, to identify the factors that inform children’s trust judgments, and to explore methods for improving children’s critical thinking.

Select Publications:

Vanderbilt, K. E., Heyman, G. D., & Liu, D. (2014). In the absence of conflicting testimony young children trust inaccurate informants. Developmental Science17, 443-451. [pdf] [link]

Heyman, G. D., Sritanyaratana, L., & Vanderbilt, K. E. (2013). Young Children's Trust in Overtly Misleading Advice. Cognitive Science37, 646–667. [pdf] [link]

Liu, D., Vanderbilt, K. E., & Heyman, G. D. (2013). Selective trust: Children's use of intention and outcome of past testimony. Developmental Psychology49, 439-445. [pdf] [link]

Liu, D. & Vanderbilt, K. E. (2013). Children learn from and about variability between people. In M. R. Banaji & S. A. Gelman (Eds.) Navigating the Social World: A Developmental Perspective. New York: Oxford University Press. [link]

Vanderbilt, K. E., Liu, D., & Heyman, G. D. (2011). The development of distrust. Child Development, 82, 1372-1380. [pdf] [link]


PSYC 100: Introduction to Psychology Introduction to basic concepts, problems, and research methods in the science of psychology. Includes perception, cognitive processes, learning, motivation, measurement, development, personality, abnormal behavior, and biological and social bases of behavior, including cross-cultural issues. The requirements will include participation in low-risk psychological experiments or completion of additional short papers.

PSYC 330: Developmental Psychology: Infancy and Childhood Theories, methods and research on development from conception through childhood. Includes biological, genetic, and physical development; social-emotional development, cognitive and language development; perception and brain development. 

PSYC 331: Infancy and Childhood: Theories and Research Focus on theories, methods ,and research in developmental psychology from conception through childhood. Includes biological, genetic, and physical development;social-emotional development, cognitive and language development;perception and brain development. Analysis and synthesis of scholarly articles are integral parts of this course.

PSYC 395: Laboratory in Developmental Psychology Advanced research methods in life-span developmental psychology. Application of methodological principles to research in such areas as cognitive and social development. Two hours lecture and three hours laboratory.

PSYC 499: Independent Research Independent research investigation (e.g., empirical laboratory or field research) in collaboration with a faculty member.

PSYC 552: Graduate Proseminar in Developmental Psychology Advanced study of current research and theory in developmental psychology. Issues such as temperament, attachment, gender-identity, cognition, and emotion will be considered from a developmental perspective, as well as the influences of family relationships, social interactions, cultural values, education, and social policy on development. Class discussions and assignments will encourage critical and analytic thinking as well as active learning approaches. Students will make formal oral and written presentations of individual and/or group projects. 



Welcome to the R.O.C.K. S.T.A.R. Lab!

R.O.C.K. S.T.A.R. stands for Research On Children's Knowledge of Social Thinking And Reasoning.

Our main goal is to investigate how children learn about the social world. We conduct interviews with children both on the CSUSM campus, and in the surrounding community. You may see us at the San Diego Children's Discovery Museum, or at your local preschool. If you do, stop by and say hello!

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lab photo dec 2015  


Meet the the R.O.C.K. S.T.A.R. Lab Team:

Lab Pic 2018

Principle Investigator

Kimberly Vanderbilt, Ph.D. 


Pets: A dog named Rocket and a cat named Bucket

Graduate Students

Charlene Andreason, B.A.

Charlene Adult Charlene Kid

Pets: Three dogs named Alice, Saline, and Kai

Research Assistants 

Holly Gizlow, B.A.

holly-big holly-little

Major: Psychology

Pets: A cat named Cat and a 55 gallon tank with several Cichlids

Member: PsiChi

Career Aspirations: University professor and researcher 

Jon Hoerr, B.A. 


Major: Psychology

Pets: Cat named Boo Radley

Other involvements: State-wide CSU Research Symposium

Career aspirations: Developmental Psychologist with an interest in building resilience in children

AJ Vega 

aj-adult aj-kid

Major: Psychology

Year: Senior

Pets: Two jack russells 

Other involvements: Sigma Alpha Elsilon & CSUSM Associated Student Inc. C.H.A.S.S Representative

Career aspirations: Industrial/Organizational Psychologist 

Ashley Torres 

ashley-adult ashley-kid

Major: Psychology

Year: Senior

Pets: German shepherd named Montgomery and a dutch shepherd named Bruce

Other involvements: Intern and volunteer at McAllister Institute-North Island Women and Adolescent Recovery Center 

Career aspirations: To become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and earn my credentials to be a substance use disorder counselor 

Carissa Velasquez

carissa-adult carissa-kid

Major: Psychology

Year: Senior

Pets: Two dogs named Shadow and Cookie

Other involvements: Member of Alpha Chi sorority

Career aspirations: Marriage and Family Therapist

Karina Solis

karina-adult karina-kid

Major: Psychology

Year: Senior

Pets: A dog named Estrella and a cockatiel named Anthony

Other involvements: Vice President of Psi Chi 

Career aspirations: Clinical Psychologist 

Kristin Nelson

 kristin-adult kristin-kid

Major: Psychology

Year: Senior

Pets: Two dogs named Harley and Hooper

Lizmery Vigil 

liz-adult liz-kid

Major: Psychology

Year: Senior

Pets: A husky named Yuki and a german shepherd named Frijolito 

Other involvements: Psi Chi Secretary and Luncheon Committee Chair for the Psychology Research Fair 

Career aspirations: Industrial/Organizational Psychologist 

Michelle Rios 

michelle-adult michelle-kid

Major: Psychology

Year: Senior

Career aspirations: Master's in counseling

Priscilla Duran

Major: Psychology

Year: Senior

Rachel White

rachel-adult rachel-kid

Major: Psychology

Year: Senior

Pets: Pug named Gracie and 24 guppies

Career aspirations: Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Lab Alumni

Monique Stolmeier, Hunter Montoya, Ruby Cuellar, Tricia Alcid, Linda Carter, Hillary Hartman, Camille McArdle-Hankin, Derrick Ocampo, Donna Phonsane, Kelsie Santoro, Karlena Ochoa, Melissa Gary, Jenny Lagervall, Leann Leite, Samantha Marshall, Bianca Medina, Sarah Ross, Tim Burtnett, Sarah Chaffins, Eileen Lux, Savanah McPhillips, Brian Voss, Lorrie Yates, Elaine Dimopolous, Kayla Pratson, Isabella Scuito, Jennifer Turner, Nicolette Affre, Brent Allmon, Olivia DePaul, and Melissa Dominguez

Lab Alumni have continued on to gradute school at: 

University of Oregon, USC, CSUSM, CSU San Bernadino, San Diego State, CSU Dominguez Hills, UC Riverside, University of Northern Colorado, Oregon State University, Brown University, University of Arizona, California Baptist University...

Interested in joining the R.O.C.K. S.T.A.R. Lab Team?! 
Email for more information.

For Parents

Check out our newsletter for updates on the lab!

ROCKSTAR Reader Spring 2017

Frequently asked questions about the R.O.C.K.S.T.A.R. Lab

Who are we?

We are members of the CSUSM R.O.C.K.S.T.A.R. Lab. “ROCKSTAR” stands for Research On Children’s Knowledge of Social Thinking And Reasoning. We are graduate and undergraduate students studying psychological science, human development and child/adolescent development at Cal State San Marcos. Dr. Kimberly Vanderbilt is the director of the ROCKSTAR lab.


What do we do at the museum?

We help the San Diego Children's Discovery Museum promote STEM education for children and families in San Diego County. We want to help kids and their families learn about science first hand, through science-based games and even real science interviews! And kids can win stickers for playing with us!

What are we studying?

We’re interested in answering questions about how kids understand and navigate the social world around them. We’re interested in how children learn about people—such as how smart or honest a person is—and how children learn to navigate the complicated social world we live in—such as understanding other’s thoughts and actions, and knowing when to trust or share with others.

How do we learn about kids?

We play games with kids and ask them questions to learn more about how they think and learn about the world. We may play a game, or read some stories about made-up characters. Afterward, we’ll ask kids some questions about the games or the story characters—but don’t worry, there are no right or wrong answers; we just want to know what kids think! And all answers are always anonymous.

What do we do with the information?

Once we’ve interviewed a bunch of kids (usually 100-200!), we look for patterns across the responses. Then, we use those patterns to figure out how kids at a particular age (like 4-year-olds) see the world, and how that differs from kids who are older or younger.  Then, we share what we’ve learned with other researchers, teachers, and caregivers. That way, we can all better understand kids’ unique perspective of the world, and how to better help kids learn and grow!

Our Research in the News:

Psychology Today: