Rachel Severson

Department of Psychology

Western Washington University

Rachel L. Severson, Ph.D. is an Instructor in the Department of Psychology at Western Washington University. She received a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Washington (2010) and was a Fulbright Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (a Norwegian Centre of Excellence) at University of Oslo (2010-2011).
Her research investigates children's values, conceptions, and interactions with nature and technological nature (technologies that mimic or represent natural forms). She is particularly interested in (a) how children's understanding may change as a function of development, culture, and experience; (b) the role of pretense and imagination in children's animistic attributions; and (c) whether a new ontological category is emerging that moves beyond long-standing canonical categories (e.g., between alive and not alive). 

NPR (KPLU) story on Dr. Severson's research

'Sort of' Alive:
Researchers probe how children think about robots

Severson's publications have appeared in such journals as Developmental Psychology, Current Directions in Psychological Science, Neural Networks, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Journal of Environmental Psychology, and Human-Computer Interaction.

Select Publications
Kahn, P. H., Jr., Kanda, T., Ishiguro, H., Freier, N. G., Severson, R. L., Gill, B. T., Ruckert, J. H., & Shen, S. (2012). “Robovie, you’ll have to go into the closet now”: Children’s social and moral relationships with a humanoid robot. Developmental Psychology, 48, 303-314. [download pdf]

Severson, R. L., & Carlson, S. M. (2010). Behaving as or behaving as if? Children's conceptions of personified robots and the emergence of a new ontological category. Neural Networks (Special Issue on Social Cognition: From Babies to Robots), 23, 1099-1103. [download pdf]

Severson, R. L., & Kahn, P. H., Jr. (2010). In the orchard: Farm worker children’s moral and environmental reasoning. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 31, 249-256. [download pdf]
Kahn, P. H., Jr., Severson, R. L., & Ruckert, J. H. (2009). The human relationship with nature and technological nature. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 37-42. [download pdf]
Kahn, P. H., Jr., Friedman, B., Gill, B. T., Hagman, J., Severson, R. L., Freier, N. G., Feldman, E. N., Carrère, S., & Stolyar, A. (2008). A plasma display window? – The shifting baseline problem in a technologically-mediated natural world. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28, 192-199. [download pdf]
Friedman, B., Kahn, P. H., Jr., Hagman, J., Severson, R. L., & Gill, B. (2006). The watcher and the watched: Social judgments about privacy in a public place. Human-Computer Interaction, 21, 235-272. [download pdf]

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