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.
2008-2013 Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Advisors: Gail Heyman and David Liu
2007-2008 M.A., University of California, San Diego
2003-2007 B.S., University of California, San Diego
Psychology, with departmental honors
minor in Anthropology
Navigating the Social World
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
Vanderbilt, K. E., Heyman, G. D., & Liu, D. (2014). In the absence of conflicting testimony young children
trust inaccurate informants. Developmental Science, 17, 443-451. [pdf] [link]
Heyman, G. D., Sritanyaratana, L., & Vanderbilt, K. E. (2013). Young Children's Trust in Overtly Misleading Advice. Cognitive Science, 37, 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 Psychology, 49, 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.
ROCK STAR Lab
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!
Meet the the R.O.C.K. S.T.A.R. Lab Team:
Kimberly Vanderbilt, Ph.D.
Pets: A dog named Rocket and a cat named Bucket
Charlene Andreason, B.A.
Pets: Three dogs named Alice, Saline, and Kai
Holly Gizlow, B.A.
Pets: A cat named Cat and a 55 gallon tank with several Cichlids
Career Aspirations: University professor and researcher
Jon Hoerr, B.A.
Pets: Cat named Boo Radley
Other involvements: State-wide CSU Research Symposium
Career aspirations: Developmental Psychologist with an interest in building resilience in children
Pets: Two jack russells
Other involvements: Sigma Alpha Elsilon & CSUSM Associated Student Inc. C.H.A.S.S Representative
Career aspirations: Industrial/Organizational Psychologist
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
Career aspirations: To become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and earn my credentials to be a substance
use disorder counselor
Pets: Two dogs named Shadow and Cookie
Other involvements: Member of Alpha Chi sorority
Career aspirations: Marriage and Family Therapist
Pets: A dog named Estrella and a cockatiel named Anthony
Other involvements: Vice President of Psi Chi
Career aspirations: Clinical Psychologist
Pets: Two dogs named Harley and Hooper
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
Career aspirations: Master's in counseling
Pets: Pug named Gracie and 24 guppies
Career aspirations: Licensed Clinical Social Worker
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 email@example.com for more information.
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: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201502/study-dogs-can-identify-liars-and-they-dont-trust-them