Sarah-Jane

Leslie

Class of 1943
Professor of Philosophy

Department of Philosophy

Founding Director
Program in Cognitive Science

Director
Program in Linguistics

Affiliated Faculty
Department of Psychology
Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies
University Center for Human Values

About

Sarah-Jane Leslie (Ph.D., Princeton, 2007) is the Class of 1943 Professor of Philosophy, the Director of the Program in Linguistics, and the Founding Director of the Program in Cognitive Science at Princeton University. She is also is affiliated faculty in the Department of Psychology, the University Center for Human Values, and the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is the author of numerous articles in philosophy and psychology, published in journals such as Science, PNAS, Philosophical Review, and Noûs.

Much of her work focuses on how we categorize and generalize information about the world around us. As part of this project, she examines how the language young children hear shapes their perception of social groups, and how this relates to stereotyping and prejudice. Most recently, she has been examining gender gaps in educational and career choices, and her work on the topic was named as one of 2015’s most interesting scientific findings by Edge. She has delivered the Gareth Evans Memorial Lecture at Oxford University, the Daniel Greenberg Lecture at Reed College, and was the 2015 recipient of the Stanton Award from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. Her work has been covered extensively in the media, including by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. She has appeared on NPR, WHYY, and CBC Radio.

News

  • Marjorie Rhodes and Sarah-Jane Leslie receive $150,000 grant from Princeton’s Center for Human Values to support their work on essentialism and hierarchies.

  • In spring of 2017, Sarah-Jane Leslie will be Acting Chair of the Department of Philosophy.

  • Marjorie Rhodes and Sarah-Jane Leslie receive $1.59M grant from the National Institutes of Health to support their work on the linguistic transmission of maladaptive beliefs.

  • The language students use in teaching evaluations predicts the discipline’s diversity. More Info

  • Sarah-Jane Leslie elected to Princeton’s Committee on Appointments and Advancement, 2016-17

  • Sarah-Jane Leslie delivers talk to Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. More Info

  • Andrei Cimpian and Sarah-Jane Leslie’s work on gender gaps named as one of the 2015’s most interesting scientific findings. More Info

  • The Program in Linguistics is honored to support ASL at Princeton. More Info

View all news items

Archived News

  • Marjorie Rhodes and Sarah-Jane Leslie receive $150,000 grant from Princeton’s Center for Human Values to support their work on essentialism and hierarchies.

  • In spring of 2017, Sarah-Jane Leslie will be Acting Chair of the Department of Philosophy.

  • Marjorie Rhodes and Sarah-Jane Leslie receive $1.59M grant from the National Institutes of Health to support their work on the linguistic transmission of maladaptive beliefs.

  • The language students use in teaching evaluations predicts the discipline’s diversity. More Info

  • Sarah-Jane Leslie elected to Princeton’s Committee on Appointments and Advancement, 2016-17

  • Sarah-Jane Leslie delivers talk to Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. More Info

  • Andrei Cimpian and Sarah-Jane Leslie’s work on gender gaps named as one of the 2015’s most interesting scientific findings. More Info

  • The Program in Linguistics is honored to support ASL at Princeton. More Info

  • Andrei Cimpian and Sarah-Jane Leslie receive $1.3M grant from the National Science Foundation to support their research on gender gaps. More Info

  • Sarah-Jane Leslie named the Daniel Greenberg Distinguished Scholar at Reed College. More Info

  • Princeton creates new Program in Cognitive Science. More Info

  • 2015 Stanton Award from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology goes to Sarah-Jane Leslie. More Info

  • Sarah-Jane Leslie delivers the Gareth Evans Memorial Lecture at Oxford University. More Info

  • CBC Radio: “We expect you’ll be brilliant! Unless you’re a woman.” Sarah-Jane Leslie on Nora Young’s Spark More Info

  • “Expectations of brilliance underlie women’s representation across academic disciplines” (Science, 2015) covered extensively in the media. More Info

Curriculum Vitae

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Media

"We expect you'll be brilliant! Unless you're a woman."
CBC Radio, Nora Young (radio appearance), March 22nd 2015Sarah-Jane Leslie

"Men are brilliant, women are bossy: What research tells us about unconscious bias, gender, and 'genius'"
Salon, Kate McDonough, February 10th 2015

"The danger of believing talent is innate"
The Wall Street Journal, Alison Gopnik, February 4th 2015

"Women less welcome than men in fields demanding brilliance"
Bioscience Technology, Cynthia Fox, January 28th 2015

"Hidden hurdle looms for women in science"
Scientific American, Boer Deng, January 20th 2015

"Women shun fields that are perceived to require 'innate ability'"
Physics World, Jude Dineley, January 19th 2015

"University challenge"
The Economist, Geoffrey Carr, January 17th 2015

"Does the 'innate genius' stereotype widen the STEM gender gap?"
Science Friday, Alexa Lim, with special guest Carol Dweck, January 16th 2015

"'Natural genius' myth deters women from science"
The Telegraph, Siobhan Fenton, January 16th 2015

"Gender Gap: Women welcome in 'hard working' fields, but 'genius' fields are male-dominated, study finds"
The Washington Post, Rachel Feltman, January 15th 2015

"Cracking the gender gap"
NBC, Stacey Naggiar, January 15th 2015

"Disciplines that expect 'brilliance' tend to punish women"
The Chronicle of Higher Education, Madeleine Will, January 15th 2015

"In US academia, fields that cherish sheer genius shun women"
Reuters, Will Dunham, January 15th 2015

"Women deterred from many fields by stereotypes of 'brilliance'"
Bloomberg, Lauren Colby, January 15th 2015

"Do fictional geniuses hold back real women?"
NPR, Geoff Brumfiel (radio appearance), January 15th 2015

"Academic gender gaps tied to stereotype about genius, Princeton study finds"
WHYY, Jessica McDonald (radio appearance), January 15th 2015

"Gender gap in academia strongest in fields that emphasize 'brilliance'"
Al-Jazeera America, Marisa Taylor, January 15th 2015

"'Spark of brilliance' bias holding back women in science?"
The Christian Science Monitor, Pete Spotts, January 15th 2015

"Women are less likely to become scientists because of a 'misconceived idea of brilliance', study finds"
The Independent, Steve Connor, January 15th 2015

"Missing out, women who play down their genius"
Daily Mail, Fiona Macrae, January 15th 2015

"Academic fields that cherish sheer genius shun women"
The Huffington Post, January 15th 2015

"Hidden hurdle looms for women in science"
Nature News, Boer Deng, January 15th 2015

"Emphasizing natural brilliance might keep women away from certain fields"
The Smithsonian Magazine, Marissa Fessenden, January 15th 2015

"Perceptions of brilliance and gender gaps in academe"
Inside Higher Ed, January 15th 2015

"The gender gap is wider in fields associated more with 'brilliance' than with hard work"
The Week, Julie Kleigman, January 15th 2015

"US Academic Fields that cherish 'spark of genius' shun women"
South China Morning Post, January 15th 2015

"La vieja idea del genio cientifico perjudica la carrera de las investigadoras"
El Confidential, Rocio Benavente, January 15th 2015

"Des stereotypes intellectuels sexistes penalisent les femmes dans les science"
Le Parisien, Patrick Kovarik, January 15th 2015

"A 'brilliant' new theory on the gender gap"
Pacific Standard, Kate Wheeling, January 15th 2015

"Women can't be geniuses? Stereotypes may explain gender gap"
Live Science, Bahar Gholipour, January 15th 2015

"Attitude, not aptitude, may contribute to the gender gap"
Science News, Bethany Brookshire, January 15th 2015

"Belief that some fields require 'brilliance' may keep women out"
AAAS Science News, Rachel Bernstein, January 15th 2015

"Stereotypes: Mind the gender gap"
Princeton Alumni Weekly, Jessica Lander, October 22nd 2014

"Q&A with Carol Dweck"
New York Times, Vikas Bajaj, December 12th 2013

"Would You Accept DNA from a Murderer?"
NPR, Tania Lombrozo, June 10th 2013

"Generalized Phrases Can Foster Stereotypes in Kids, Study Says"
LA Times, Mary MacVean, August 8th 2012

"How Generic Language Leads Children to Develop Social Stereotypes"
Huffington Post, Marjorie Rhodes, August 7th 2012

"Stereotyping and Prejudice in Children Begins with Generic Language Learning"
Medical Daily, Amber Moore, August 7th 2012

"Kids who hear stereotypes believe them, and more"
Futurity, August 7th 2012

"Hearing generic language helps fuel stereotypes, researchers find"
Phys Org, August 6th 2012

"Generic Language Helps Fuel Stereotypes"
Science Daily, August 6th 2012

"Philosophy Tests"
Princeton Alumni Weekly, David Menconi, May 16th 2012

Selected Publications

Books

Generics and Generalization
Under contract at Oxford University Press

Articles

Meyer, M., Cimpian, A., & Leslie, S.J. (in press). Women are underrepresented in fields where success is thought to require brilliance. Frontiers in Psychology. PDF

Leslie, S.J., Cimpian, A., Meyer, M., & Freeland, E. (2015). Expectations of Brilliance Underlie Gender Distributions Across Academic Disciplines. Science, 347(6219), 262-265. Link

Gelman, S.A., Leslie, S.J., Was, A.M., & Koch, C.M. (in press). Children's Interpretations of General Quantifiers, Specific Quantifiers, and Generics. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. PDF

Sutherland, S.L., Cimpian, A., Leslie, S.J. & Gelman, S.A. (in press). Memory Errors Reveal a Bias to Spontaneously Generalize to Categories. Cognitive Science. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (in press). 'Hillary Clinton is the only man in the Obama Administration': Dual Character Concepts, Generics, and Gender. Analytic Philosophy. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (in press). 'Real Men': Polysemy or Implicature? Analytic Philosophy. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (in press). The Original Sin of Cognition: Fear, Prejudice and Generalization. The Journal of Philosophy. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (in press). Generics. In R. Audi (ed.) Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy

Leslie, S.J. (2015). Generics Oversimplified. Nous, 49(1), 28-54. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2014). Carving Up the Social World with Generics. Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, 1, 208-232.PDF

Lerner, A., & Leslie, S.J. (2013). Generics, Generalism, and Reflective Equilibrium: Implications for Moral Theorizing from the Study of Language. Philosophical Perspectives, 27, 366-403. PDF

Prasada, S., Khemlani, S., Leslie, S.J., & Glucksberg, S. (2013). Conceptual Distinctions Amongst Generics. Cognition, 126, 405-422. PDF

Meyer, M., Leslie, S.J., Gelman, S.A., & Stilwell, S. (2013). Essentialist Beliefs about Organ Transplants in the United States and India. Cognitive Science, 37, 668-710. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2013). Essence and Natural Kinds: When Science Meets Preschooler Intuition. Oxford Studies in Epistemology, 4, 108-165. PDF

Johnston, M. & Leslie, S.J. (2012). Concepts, Analysis, Generics, and the Canberra Plan. Philosophical Perspectives, 26, 113-171. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2012). Generics Articulate Default Generalizations. Recherches Linguistiques de Vincennes: New Perspectives on Genericity at the Interfaces (A. Mari, ed.), 41, 25-45. PDF

Rhodes, M., Leslie, S.J., & Tworek, C. (2012). Cultural Transmission of Social Essentialism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 109(34), 13526-13531. PDF

Leslie, S.J. & Gelman, S.A. (2012). Quantified Statements are Recalled as Generics. Cognitive Psychology, 64, 186-214. PDF

Brandone, A. Cimpian, A., Leslie, S.J. & Gelman, S.A. (2012). Do Lions Have Manes? For Children, Generics are about Kinds rather than Quantities. Child Development, 83(2), 423-433. PDF

Khemlani, S., Leslie, S.J. & Glucksberg, S. (2012). Inferences about Members of Kinds: The Generics Hypothesis. Language and Cognitive Processes, 27, 887-900. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2012). Eros and the Redemption of the Gods: Themes from Wagner. in A. Hamilton and N. Zangwill (eds.), Scruton's Aesthetics, Palgrave Macmillan. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2012). Generics. In G. Russell and D. G. Fara (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Language. New York: Routledge, pp. 355-367. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2011). Essence, Plenitude, and Paradox. Philosophical Perspectives, 25, 277-296. PDF

Leslie, S.J., Khemlani, S. & Glucksberg, S. (2011). All Ducks Lay Eggs: The Generic Overgeneralization Effect.Journal of Memory and Language, 65, 15-31. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2011). Generics. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2009). ‘If’, ‘Unless’, and Quantification. In R. Stainton and C. Viger (eds.) Compositionality, Context and Semantics. Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy (SLAP), vol. 85, Dordrecht: Springer.PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2008). Generics: Cognition and Acquisition. Philosophical Review, vol. 117, no. 1, pp. 1-47.PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2007). Generics and the Structure of the Mind. Philosophical Perspectives, vol 21, no.1,pp. 375-403. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2007). Moderately Sensitive Semantics. In G. Preyer (ed.), Context Sensitivity and Semantic Minimalism: Essays on Semantics and Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. PDF

Conference Proceedings

S. Khemlani, S. J. Leslie, & S. Glucksberg. (2009) Generics, Prevalence, and Default Inferences. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Cognitive Science Society. Amsterdam: Cognitive Science Society. PDF

S. J. Leslie, S. Khemlani, S. Prasada, and S. Glucksberg. (2009). Conceptual and Linguistic Distinctions between Singular and Plural Generics. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Cognitive Science Society. Amsterdam: Cognitive Science Society. PDF

S. Khemlani, S. J. Leslie, S. Glucksberg, & P. R. Fernandez. (2007). Do Ducks Lay Eggs? How People Interpret Generic Assertions. Proceedings of the 29th Annual Cognitive Science Society.Nashville, TN: Cognitive Science Society. PDF

GENDER GAPS


Above: a brief video overview of the research. See below for a more detailed presentation.

Much of the public discourse is focused on women's representation in natural science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines; however, gender representation across disciplines is quite complex, with women being well represented at the PhD level in some STEM disciplines, but underrepresented in some social science/humanities disciplines. Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, Andrei Cimpian and Sarah-Jane Leslie are investigating why some academic disciplines have large gender gaps while others do not. Their findings suggest that, due to cultural stereotyping, women are underrepresented in disciplines where success is viewed as a matter of raw, innate brilliance.

Representative publications: Leslie, S.J., Cimpian, A, Meyer, M., & Freeland, E. (2015). Expectations of Brilliance Underlie Women's Representation Across Academic Disciplines. Science, 347(6219), 262-265. Link

Meyer, M., Cimpian, A., & Leslie, S.J. (2015). Women are underrepresented in fields where success is thought to require brilliance. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1-12. Link

A more detailed overview of the findings

Practical Suggestions for Educators: If educators, academics, and administrators wish to increase the diversity of a particular discipline, they may wish to alter the messages they send regarding what is needed for success in the discipline. A brief summary of suggestions on how to begin to do this, drawing on the work of Carol Dweck and colleagues, can be found here.

Radio: NPR, WHYY, Science Friday, CBC Radio.

Print: The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, NBC, Bloomberg Businessweek, Reuters, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Christian Science Monitor, Salon, The Huffington Post. Al Jazeera America, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Telegraph, Bioscience Technology, Scientific American, AAAS Science News, Nature News, Science News, Live Science, Physics World, The Pacific Standard, Le Parisien, El Confidencial, South China Morning Post, The Smithsonian Magazine, The Australian, The Week, Inside Higher Ed, and others.

Press releases: Princeton University, The University of Illinois, National Science Foundation.

LANGUAGE AND SOCIAL COGNITION

Can the study of language illuminate the philosophy and psychology of prejudice and stereotyping? Since prejudiced beliefs characteristically involve making generalizations about a group of people, understanding the nature of generic generalizations has the potential to illuminate aspects of social prejudice. Marjorie Rhodes and Sarah-Jane Leslie are investigating the impact of hearing generic language on young children’s social cognitive development.

Representative publications: Rhodes, M., Leslie, S.J., & Tworek, C. (2012). Cultural Transmission of Social Essentialism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 109(34), 13526-13531. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2014). Carving Up the Social World with Generics. Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, 1, 208-232. PDF

Media Coverage: Huffington Post, Science Daily, Phys Org, and others.

GENERIC GENERALIZATIONS

Generics are generalizations such as “tigers are striped”, “ducks lay eggs”, and “mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus”. These sentences pose difficulties for traditional formal semantics, but are acquired and processed quickly and easily by young children. This research project seeks to understand the features of our psychology that make this possible, and to explore the consequences of these features for philosophy more generally.

Representative publications: Leslie, S.J. (2008). Generics: Cognition and Acquisition. Philosophical Review, vol. 117, no. 1, pp. 1-47. PDF

Leslie, S.J. (2012). Generics Articulate Default Generalizations. Recherches Linguistiques de Vincennes: New Perspectives on Genericity at the Interfaces (A. Mari, ed.), 41, 25-45. PDF

Johnston, M. & Leslie, S.J. (2012). Concepts, Analysis, Generics, and the Canberra Plan. Philosophical Perspectives, 26, 113-171. PDF

PHILOSOPHICAL CONVERSATIONS

The Marc Sanders Foundation sponsored a series of video interviews with philosophers, anchored by Sarah-Jane Leslie. The series, Philosophical Conversations, is available on YouTube. The topics include the ethics of cochlear implants, advances in experimental philosophy, conservatism and the environment, sex and objectification, the role of honor in moral revolutions, and many others. The series features Kwame Anthony Appiah, Elizabeth Harman, Joshua Knobe, Rae Langton, and Roger Scruton.

Kwame Anthony Appiah - Race and Psychological Essentialism

Rae Langton - Pornography, Speech and Silence

Roger Scruton - Wagner and Philosophy

COGNITIVE SCIENCE AT PRINCETON

cogsci logo

Effective July 1st 2015, the Princeton faculty has approved the creation of a Program in Cognitive Science. The Program offers undergraduates the opportunity to earn a certificate, and provides graduate students with the chance to become fellows of the program. Multiple funding opportunities are available for undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. As the Founding Director, Sarah-Jane Leslie has overseen the creation of all aspects of this new program. More Info