Hidden Talents Lab


Dr. Bruce Ellis and research assistant Marilynn Santana

Work in the Hidden Talents Lab both challenges and complements the prevailing deficit model of social-cognitive development in harsh and unpredictable environments. This deficit model focuses on impairments in learning and behavior in children and adolescents who grow up under stressful conditions. We have argued that the deficit model captures a crucial part of reality, but is also incomplete because it critically misses how individuals developmentally form their cognitive skills and abilities to solve recurrent problems faced in their local ecologies. Further, certain responses to high-adversity contexts (e.g., steep future discounting), which are frequently conceptualized as dysfunctional, may be biologically adaptive, even if these responses are undesirable and something we would like to change. Research in the Hidden Talents Lab focuses on the enhanced social-cognitive skills and abilities that develop in high-adversity contexts and can be leveraged in education, jobs, policy, and interventions.