Area Head

Research Section Area Head

Katharine Graf Estes


  • Ph.D., Psychology, University of Wisconsin
  • B.A., Psychology, Indiana University


In addition to her academic appointment in Psychology, Katharine Graf Estes is a faculty member in the Center for Mind and Brain. She also serves as a member of several professional organizations, including the Society for Research in Child Development and the International Society for Infant Studies.

Research Focus

Infants are immersed in a world of immense complexity, yet they display knowledge of the people, objects, actions, and sounds in their environments very early in life. Professor Graf Estes’ research explores the mechanisms that support this early learning. In particular, the ability to detect statistical regularities may play a fundamental role in how infants learn about a highly complex, highly salient aspect of the auditory world: language. Infants become especially attuned to regularities in the sound patterns of the ambient language, including its phoneme distinctions, sound combinations within words, and its cues to word boundaries in fluent speech. Thus, when infants begin to understand and produce words, they do not start as blank slates. She investigates how infants learn from statistical regularities in the language they hear and the nature of what they learn.

Selected Publications

  • Graf Estes, K., &  Hay, J. F. (In Press). Flexibility in bilingual infants’ word learning. Child Development

  • Graf Estes, K. (2012). Infants generalize representations of statistically segmented words. Frontiers in Psychology: Language Science, 3.

  • Graf Estes, K., & Bowen,  S. (2013). Learning about sounds contributes to learning about words: Effects of prosody and phonotactics on infant word learning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 114(3), 405-417.

  • Erikson, L., Thiessen, E. T., & Graf Estes, K. (2014). Statistically coherent labels facilitate categorization in 8-month-olds. Journal of Memory and Language, 72, 49-58.

  • Graf Estes, K. (2014). Learning builds on learning: infants' use of native language sound patterns to learn words. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 26, 313-27.


Professor Graf Estes currently teaches courses in Developmental Psychology and Cognitive Development.


While at UC Davis, Professor Graf Estes has been awarded the 2013 Young Alumni Award from Indiana University, a Hellman Foundation Fellowship from UC Davis, and she received a Career Award from the National Science Foundation.