Lab Members

Thalia R. Goldstein, Ph.D. (Principal Investigator)

 Dr. Goldstein is Assistant Professor of Psychology at George Mason University, in the Applied Developmental Group, Department of Psychology.  Her research focuses on how children, adolescents and adults can learn social and emotional skills through engaging in pretend, imagined, and theatrical worlds, as well as individuals understand characters in such worlds.

She graduated Cum Laude (Psychology) and With Distinction (all subjects) from Cornell University and spent several years as a professional actress and dancer in New York City. She then earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from Boston College in Developmental Psychology under the advisement of Dr. Ellen Winner, completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Paul Bloom at Yale University and spent 4 years as an assistant professor of Psychology at Pace University.

Dr. Goldstein’s work has been supported by The National Endowment for the Arts (Research: ArtWorks and Arts Labs), The John Templeton Foundation, Arts Connection, a National Science Foundation Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, a dissertation grant from the Esther Katz Rosen Fellowship (APF), an NSF small grant for exploratory research (SGER #0841047), and a graduate fellowship from the Department of Homeland Security.  She has won awards from IGEL (Best Student Paper), SRCD (Student Travel Award) and APA (2009 Division 10 Frank X. Barron Outstanding Student Award; 2016 Daniel E. Berlyne Award for Outstanding Research by an Early Career Scholar). She is currently Editor of the APA Division 10 Journal, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts and on the editorial boards of Empirical Studies in the Arts and Imagination, Cognition and Personality.

Current PhD and MA Students

Brittany Thompson is a 4th year Doctoral Ctudent. She graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2012 with a B.A. in psychology with a minor in educational studies. Her current research interests include defining and measuring pretend play, and which specific components of pretend play benefit child development. More broadly, Brittany is interested in measurement and construct validity, as well as the value of consistent operational definitions in early childhood intervention. When she graduates in Spring 2020, she is interested in pursuing a job at an independent research organization focused on helping policymakers and practitioners apply research to best serve children’s needs and foster their development.

DaSean Young is a second-year doctoral student in Dr. Goldstein’s lab. He graduated from Pace University where he majored in Psychology and minored in Queer Studies. He previously conducted research for the Social Justice & Health Equity Psychology lab. There he studied intersectionality and stigma toward marginalized groups. His current interests are in how the arts and play impact social, emotional, and identity development in young kids and adolescents.

Megan Stutesman is a first-year PhD student in Dr. Goldstein’s lab. She earned a BS in Psychology and a BA in Dance from the University of Washington in 2015. She then spent two years working as a professional dancer, teaching dance, and working with children on the Autism spectrum in Applied Behavior Analysis. In 2019 she earned a MSEd in Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development from the University of Pennsylvania where her master’s thesis explored theory of mind and empathy across age groups. At the UPenn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships she conducted program evaluation research on extracurricular programs for under resourced, majority-minority students in West Philadelphia. Her current research interests include embodiment, pretense, and art education’s impacts on social cognitive development.

Kaylee Chulla is a second year MA student in Dr. Goldstein’s lab. She received her B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Religion from High Point University in North Carolina. Her previous research includes work on the production effect and study methods in elementary aged children. Her current research interests include appropriate classroom engagement and learning strategies for children with developmental disabilities.

Bailey Hill is a second year Master’s student working in Dr. Goldstein’s lab. He completed his undergraduate education at Wheaton College (IL), earning a B.A. in psychology. During his undergraduate career he completed training as an ABA therapist, working specifically with individuals who have autism spectrum disorders. His interests include Applied Behavioral Analysis, the transition of individuals with developmental disabilities into independent living, and social development of those with ASDs.

Karlan Cruz is a first-year Master’s student in Dr. Goldstein’s lab. He received his B.A. in Psychology with a minor in English from the University of Maine in 2013. He has worked in a childcare setting for a number of years, which has heavily influenced his decision to study developmental psychology. His interests include how activities like drama, role-playing, and gaming can be used to improve social skills and problem-solving skills.