Headshot of Isobel.

Isobel Heck


  • Assistant Professor of Psychology

PhD, University of Chicago, 2023

464 Meliora Hall

Office Hours: By appointment


Research Overview

Dr. Heck will be accepting applications for graduate students for the 2024-2025 academic year.

My research focuses on how young children come to represent and think about societal hierarchies, political systems, and social group-based inequities. This research embraces the perspective that how children see societal structures offers a lens into how society first becomes represented in the human mind, and into ways of thinking about and responding to inequities that may remain intuitive across the lifespan and over time. My research follows three main themes: (1) Mechanisms of learning about group-based hierarchies; (2) Developing leadership cognition and sociopolitical thought; and (3) Becoming involved in societal and political systems. Across these streams, I pay particular attention to how variation in lived experience shapes differences in social thinking across individuals and contexts.

Selected Publications

  • Anderson, R., Heck, I.A., *Young, K., & Kinzler, K.D. (2023). Early-life beliefs about censorship. Cognition, 238, 105500. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2023.105500
  • Heck, I.A., Kushnir, T., & Kinzler, K.D. (2023). Building representations of the social world: Children extract patterns from social choices to reason about multi-group hierarchies. Developmental Science, 26(4), e13366. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13366
  • Heck, I.A., Shutts, K., & Kinzler, K.D. (2022). The development of thinking about group-based social hierarchies. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 26(7), 593–606. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2022.04.004
  • Santhanagopalan, R., Heck, I.A., & Kinzler, K.D. (2022). Leadership, gender, and colorism: Children in India use social category information to guide leadership cognition. Developmental Science, 25(3), e13212. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13212
  • Heck, I.A., Bas, J., & Kinzler, K.D. (2022). Small groups lead, big groups control: Perceptions of numerical group size, power, and status across development. Child Development, 93(1), 194–208. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13670
  • Heck, I.A., Santhanagopalan, R., Cimpian, A., & Kinzler, K.D. (2021). Understanding the developmental roots of gender gaps in politics. Psychological Inquiry, 32(2), 53-71. [target article] https://doi.org/10.1080/1047840X.2021.1930741
  • Heck, I.A., Santhanagopalan, R., Cimpian, A., & Kinzler, K.D. (2021). An integrative developmental framework for studying gender inequities in politics. Psychological Inquiry, 32(2), 137-152. [response to commentaries] https://doi.org/10.1080/1047840X.2021.1932984
  • Heck, I.A., Bregant, J., & Kinzler, K.D. (2021). “There are no Band-Aids for emotions”: The development of thinking about emotional harm. Developmental Psychology, 57(6), 913-926. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0001187
  • Heck, I.A., Kushnir, T., & Kinzler, K.D. (2021). Social sampling: Children track social choices to reason about status hierarchies. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(8), 1673–1687. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0001008
  • Heck, I.A., Chernyak, N., & Sobel, D.S. (2018). Preschoolers’ compliance with others’ violations of fairness norms: The roles of intentionality and affective perspective taking. Journal of Cognition and Development, 19(5), 568-592. https://doi.org/10.1080/15248372.2018.1504052

*Denotes student collaborators.