Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Assistant Professor, University of California, San Diego (2019 - 2023)

Professional Education

  • AB, Harvard College, Neurobiology & Statistics (2010)
  • PhD, Princeton University, Psychology (2016)

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • Developmental changes in drawing production under different memory demands in a U.S. and Chinese sample. Developmental psychology Long, B., Wang, Y., Christie, S., Frank, M. C., Fan, J. E. 2023; 59 (10): 1784-1793


    Children's drawings of common object categories become dramatically more recognizable across childhood. What are the major factors that drive developmental changes in children's drawings? To what degree are children's drawings a product of their changing internal category representations versus limited by their visuomotor abilities or their ability to recall the relevant visual information? To explore these questions, we examined the degree to which developmental changes in drawing recognizability vary across different drawing tasks that vary in memory demands (i.e., drawing from verbal vs. picture cues) and with children's shape-tracing abilities across two geographical locations (San Jose, United States, and Beijing, China). We collected digital shape tracings and drawings of common object categories (e.g., cat, airplane) from 4- to 9-year-olds (N = 253). The developmental trajectory of drawing recognizability was remarkably similar when children were asked to draw from pictures versus verbal cues and across these two geographical locations. In addition, our Beijing sample produced more recognizable drawings but showed similar tracing abilities to children from San Jose. Overall, this work suggests that the developmental trajectory of children's drawings is remarkably consistent and not easily explainable by changes in visuomotor control or working memory; instead, changes in children's drawings over development may at least partly reflect changes in the internal representations of object categories. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

    View details for DOI 10.1037/dev0001600

    View details for PubMedID 37768614

  • Socially intelligent machines that learn from humans and help humans learn. Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences Gweon, H., Fan, J., Kim, B. 2023; 381 (2251): 20220048


    A hallmark of human intelligence is the ability to understand and influence other minds. Humans engage in inferential social learning (ISL) by using commonsense psychology to learn from others and help others learn. Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are raising new questions about the feasibility of human-machine interactions that support such powerful modes of social learning. Here, we envision what it means to develop socially intelligent machines that can learn, teach, and communicate in ways that are characteristic of ISL. Rather than machines that simply predict human behaviours or recapitulate superficial aspects of human sociality (e.g. smiling, imitating), we should aim to build machines that can learn from human inputs and generate outputs for humans by proactively considering human values, intentions and beliefs. While such machines can inspire next-generation AI systems that learn more effectively from humans (as learners) and even help humans acquire new knowledge (as teachers), achieving these goals will also require scientific studies of its counterpart: how humans reason about machine minds and behaviours. We close by discussing the need for closer collaborations between the AI/ML and cognitive science communities to advance a science of both natural and artificial intelligence. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Cognitive artificial intelligence'.

    View details for DOI 10.1098/rsta.2022.0048

    View details for PubMedID 37271177

  • Visual resemblance and interaction history jointly constrain pictorial meaning. Nature communications Hawkins, R. D., Sano, M., Goodman, N. D., Fan, J. E. 2023; 14 (1): 2199


    How do drawings-ranging from detailed illustrations to schematic diagrams-reliably convey meaning? Do viewers understand drawings based on how strongly they resemble an entity (i.e., as images) or based on socially mediated conventions (i.e., as symbols)? Here we evaluate a cognitive account of pictorial meaning in which visual and social information jointly support visual communication. Pairs of participants used drawings to repeatedly communicate the identity of a target object among multiple distractor objects. We manipulated social cues across three experiments and a full replication, finding that participants developed object-specific and interaction-specific strategies for communicating more efficiently over time, beyond what task practice or a resemblance-based account alone could explain. Leveraging model-based image analyses and crowdsourced annotations, we further determined that drawings did not drift toward "arbitrariness," as predicted by a pure convention-based account, but preserved visually diagnostic features. Taken together, these findings advance psychological theories of how successful graphical conventions emerge.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-023-37737-w

    View details for PubMedID 37069160

    View details for PubMedCentralID 7060673

  • Common Object Representations for Visual Production and Recognition COGNITIVE SCIENCE Fan, J. E., Yamins, D. K., Turk-Browne, N. B. 2018; 42 (8): 2670-2698

    View details for DOI 10.1111/cogs.12676

    View details for Web of Science ID 000453527500009

  • Improving analytical reasoning and argument understanding: a quasi-experimental field study of argument visualization. NPJ science of learning Cullen, S., Fan, J., van der Brugge, E., Elga, A. 2018; 3: 21


    The ability to analyze arguments is critical for higher-level reasoning, yet previous research suggests that standard university education provides only modest improvements in students' analytical-reasoning abilities. What pedagogical approaches are most effective for cultivating these skills? We investigated the effectiveness of a 12-week undergraduate seminar in which students practiced a software-based technique for visualizing the logical structures implicit in argumentative texts. Seminar students met weekly to analyze excerpts from contemporary analytic philosophy papers, completed argument visualization problem sets, and received individualized feedback on a weekly basis. We found that seminar students improved substantially more on LSAT Logical Reasoning test forms than did control students (d=0.71, 95% CI: [0.37, 1.04], p<0.001), suggesting that learning how to visualize arguments in the seminar led to large generalized improvements in students' analytical-reasoning skills. Moreover, blind scoring of final essays from seminar students and control students, drawn from a parallel lecture course, revealed large differences in favor of seminar students (d=0.87, 95% CI: [0.26, 1.48], p=0.005). Seminar students understood the arguments better, and their essays were more accurate and effectively structured. Taken together, these findings deepen our understanding of how visualizations support logical reasoning and provide a model for improving analytical-reasoning pedagogy.

    View details for PubMedID 30631482