Molly Flaherty, PhD
I am a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Swarthmore College. At Swarthmore I teach Developmental Psychology, Research Design and Analysis, as well as first-year and upper level seminars.
In my research, I seek to better understand the developing mind by closely examining the structure of language. I also investigate the effects of one’s specific early language environment on language. I pursue these questions by studying one of the youngest languages known to science: Nicaraguan Sign Language. I also track the emergence of linguistic structure in the individual child during typical language learning.
I was formerly a British Academy Newton International Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. In my continuing work with Simon Kirby, we seek to replicate conditions of natural language creation in a more controlled laboratory environment. By doing this we can examine the effects of individual factors that shape language with more control than is possible in the natural world.
I received my PhD in Psychology in 2014 from the University of Chicago, where I pursued questions of language emergence in Nicaragua. In my dissertation work with Susan Goldin-Meadow, I explored the emergence of argument structure in Nicaraguan homesign and Nicaraguan Sign Language. In my postdoctoral work, I investigated the role of gestural input to Nicaraguan Sign Language. In work with Daniel Casasanto, I also explored the acquisition of number language and its effects of numeracy in non-numerate signing adults.
Before coming to Chicago, I earned an MSc (with distinction) in The Evolution of Language and Cognition from the University of Edinburgh. I earned my BA in Psychology from Columbia University and completed my honors thesis work with Herbert Terrace and Lisa Son. I began working in Nicaragua as an undergraduate and then lab manager in Ann Senghas's lab at Barnard College.