Brad PillowBradford Pillow, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology

Phone: (815) 753-7079
Fax: (815)753-8088
Office: PM 353


Ph.D.: Stanford University, 1986


My research focuses on metacognitive and social cognitive development during the preschool and elementary school years.  Intuitive knowledge or awareness of cognitive functioning contributes importantly to (a) perspective-taking during social interactions, (b) understanding science, (c) understanding perspectives in narrative texts , and (d) monitoring reading and comprehension. I investigate children’s conceptions of cognitive processes such as attention, memory, comprehension, and inference by examining how these concepts are manifested both in children’s ability to reason about another person’s thoughts and in children’s ability to monitor their own cognitive states and processes.  Understanding the nature of cognitive functioning is important for children’s academic and social lives.   Preschool children demonstrate a basic understanding of the perceptual origins of knowledge.   During the elementary school years, children become increasingly aware of cognitive activities.  Consequently, they are better able to reason about another person’s thought process, and also are better at reflecting on their own thoughts.

I also investigate developmental changes in children’s explanations of other persons’ actions.  Like adults, young children explain another person’s action by referring to mental states such as knowledge, beliefs, or desires, and during the early elementary school years, children begin to appeal to cognitive activities, such as forgetting or selective attention, to explain both a person’s actions and the mental states underlying those actions. Furthermore, the types of goals or motives children attribute to other people in order to make sense of others’ behavior change with increased age.  During late childhood and early adolescence, children begin to explain behavior in terms of increasingly complex motives.  For example, compared to younger children, older children are more likely to conclude that one person’s action was motivated by a desire to influence an observer’s thoughts about the actor or an observer’s thoughts about a second person.


  • Psych 324 Developmental Child Psychology
  • Psych 464 Developmental Psychology Laboratory
  • Psych 665 Behavioral Development
  • Psych 678 Development of Cognition


  • Pillow, B. H., & Henrichon, A. J. (1996).  There's more to the picture than meets the eye: Young children's difficulty understanding interpretation.  Child Development, 67, 808-819.
  • Lovett, S. B., & Pillow, B. H. (1996).  The development of the ability to distinguish between comprehension and memory:  Evidence from goal-state evaluation tasks. Journal of  Educational Psychology, 88, 546-562.
  • Pillow, B. H., & Lovett, S. B. (1998).  "He forgot":  Young children's use of cognitive explanations for another person's mistakes. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 44, 378-403.
  • Pillow, B. H., Hill, V.,  Boyce, A.,  & Stein, C.  (2000).  Understanding  inference as a source of knowledge: Children’s ability to evaluate the certainty of deduction, perception, and guessing. Developmental Psychology, 36, 169-179.
  • Pillow, B. H. (2002).  Children’s and adults’ evaluation of the certainty of deductive inferences, inductive inferences, and guesses. Child Development, 73, 779-792.