At the Jones Lab, we are interested in the development of the social brain. Successfully navigating our environment relies upon acquiring meaningful information and patterns from social interactions. Our lab studies how children, adolescents and adults glean information from their environment and the variability in these skills in individuals with atypical development. 


We all find ourselves driven by impulses - to get things we like, to get away from things that are bothering us, to do things that we enjoy. Sometimes, these impulses are adaptive, in that they help us to keep ourselves safe and healthy or to reach a goal, but at other times, following our natural urges is not the best option, and making another choice that is perhaps less desired but better thought out will actually give us a more optimal outcome. By the time we have reached adulthood, we have made great improvements in our ability to control our impulses in pursuit of more adaptive choices - however, we don't always see a steady increase in self-control with age. In fact, there are periods of time during adolescence and young adulthood when it is particularly difficult to inhibit one's impulses to positive, and especially social, cues, which contributes to the rise of risk-taking and the strong influence of peer pressure at this age. Our studies focus on learning more about how self-control develops from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood, especially in terms of our ability to control impulses related to social interactions and to topics that we are interested in. We are also working on understanding more about how self-control develops in adolescents and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as less is known about how people on the spectrum learn to regulate their impulses as they age.


non-verbal SOCIAL communication

Before babies learn to talk, they use behaviors like pointing, eye contact, and gazing at things around them to communicate with others and let them know what they are interested in. These early forms of non-verbal communication in turn support infants in learning to speak, because these reciprocal interactions with caregivers and other adults help to create an environment that is rich in language. Non-verbal communication remains important even once young children have learned to speak, as it adds detail and richness to communication. Children on the autism spectrum demonstrate impairments in non-verbal communication throughout the lifespan. These difficulties emerge early, and therefore play a key role in the diagnosis of autism. Further, the severity of non-verbal communication deficits is often predictive of language development throughout childhood. While non-verbal communication behaviors play a meaningful role in development, they are often subtle and difficult to objectively quantify. Therefore, our research aims to improve the measurement of non-verbal communication through the use of innovative, data-driven technologies.