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Sara Baker


  • Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Education
  • Member of the Doctoral Leadership Team
  • Official Fellow and Deputy Dean, Darwin College

E-mail and Twitter



+44 (0)1223 767531


  • PhD (Rutgers)
  • MS (Rutgers)
  • MA (Paris 8)

Membership of Professional Bodies/Associations

  • Society for Research in Child Development
  • American Psychological Society
  • Cognitive Development Society
  • Experimental Psychology Society

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Sara's research interests are based in cognitive science. She studied for her Maîtrise in psychology and cognitive neuroscience at the University of Paris 8 while on placement at the Salpêtrière Hospital's Brain Imaging Unit. Sara then gained her Masters and PhD at the Rutgers University Center for Cognitive Science working with preschool children in schools throughout New Jersey. This led on to a three-year ESRC-funded postdoctoral research position within the University of Bristol's Cognitive Development Centre. Between 2007 and 2010 she was an invited lecturer at the Royal College of Psychiatrists teaching basic psychology. Sara held a lectureship in Developmental Psychology at the University of Salford for one year before joining the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education as a University Lecturer in October 2011. She has been a Senior Lecturer since 2017.   Sara is a PI in the recently established Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning.

Academic Area and Links

Psychology, Education and Learning Studies Research Cluster

Cambridge Neuroscience

Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning

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Research Areas

The focus of Sara's research is belief formation and belief revision, particularly during the preschool years when children learn about a constantly changing world.  Central to her research agenda is the role of cognitive flexibility in the formation and expression of beliefs about two core domains of knowledge: the social world (e.g., perspective-taking) and the physical world (e.g., gravity and inertia). How do children discover the general laws underlying these domains?  How entrenched are their beliefs and what kinds of evidence are needed to revise these?  In addition to basic research, Sara translates research from cognitive development into educational contexts.  What types of strategies can children use to solve everyday problems more effectively, and how can adults support this?  Later in development, what are the key factors in adults’ use of evidence-based reasoning (e.g. critical thinking and scientific reasoning)?  And finally, how can neuroscientists and educators work together for better evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence?  Sara's recent projects addressing questions like these have been funded by the Newton Trust, a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the LEGO Foundation.

Prospective Masters and PhD Applications

Sara welcomes queries from prospective Masters and PhD students.

Current Research Projects

  • Bayesian change point analysis and microgenetic research designs
  • Interventions to improve executive functions (i.e. cognitive flexibility) in preschoolers
  • Children's judgements when weighing up information from multiple sources
  • Scientific reasoning by individuals with and without autism
  • Working with teachers as co-researchers to develop and test evidence-based pedagogy
  • PhD student projects and collaborators based in UK, USA, Denmark, South Korea, Ghana and Rwanda

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  • Postgraduate
    • MPhil/MEd in Psychology and Education (Biological Psychology; Developmental Psychology; Quantitative Research Methods)
  • Undergraduate
    • Bachelor's in Education (Cognitive Development; Research and Investigation)

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Selected Publications

Lee, M. K., Baker, S., & Whitebread, D. (2018). Cultureā€specific links between maternal executive function, parenting, and preschool children's executive function in South Korea. British Journal of Educational Psychology.

Burra, N., Baker, S., & George, N. (2017). Processing of gaze direction within the N170/M170 time window: A combined EEG/MEG study. Neuropsychologia.

Baker, S.T., Leslie, A.M., Gallistel, C.R., & Hood, B. (2016). Bayesian Change-Point Analysis Reveals Developmental Change in a Classic Theory of Mind Task. Cognitive Psychology, 91, 124-149.

Cotton, J., Baker, S.T., & Wilson, J. (2015). An Exploratory case study of three children with ADHD and social difficulties: Child and parent responses to an educational intervention designed to facilitate self-regulation and deep learning. The Psychology and Education Review, 39, 3-8.

Baker, S.T., Gjersoe, N.L., Sibielska-Woch, K., Leslie, A.M., & Hood, B. (2011). Inhibitory control interacts with core knowledge in toddlers’ manual search for an occluded object. Developmental Science, 14, 270-279.

Baker, S.T., Friedman, O., & Leslie, A.M. (2010). The Opposites task: Using general rules to test cognitive flexibility in preschoolers. Journal of Cognition and Development, 11, 240-254.