College of Education and Human Development

Institute of Child Development

Maria Sera

  • Professor Emeritus

Maria Sera

Areas of interest

Cognitive and linguistic development


Cognitive and linguistic development.


My research focuses on language learning and its relation to cognitive development. Current projects focus on the role of language in spatial cognition and categorization, and on the learning of second languages by children and adults.


Scott, N.M. & Sera, M.D. (2018) Language unifies relational coding: The roles of label acquisition and accessibility in making flexible relational judgments. Journal of Memory and Language, Volume 101, pp 136-152.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). Report of the Committee on Fostering School Success for English Learners: Toward New Directions in Policy, Practice, and Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press (committee member/co-author).

Sera, M.D., Maratsos, M. & Carlson, S. M. (2017) Culture and Developmental Systems. Co-Editor of Volume 38 of the Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology, Wiley.

Scott, N., Leuthod, A., Sera, M., & Georgopolous,  A.P. (2016) Differential Neural Activity Patterns for Spatial Relations in Humans: A MEG Study. Experimental Brain Research, 234 (2) 429-441.

Kurinski, E., Jambor, E., & Sera, M.D. (2016). Spanish grammatical gender: Its effects on categorization in native Hungarian speakers. International Journal of Bilingualism, Vol. 20, (1), 76-93.

Prager, E. O., Sera, M.D. & Carlson, S. M. (2016) Executive function and magnitude skills in preschool children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 147, 126-139.

Mazzocco, M., Chan, J. Y. & Sera, M.D. (2016) Contextual sensitivity and the large number word bias: When is bigger really more? In A. Henik (Ed.) Continuous issues in numerical cognition: How many or how much? Pp. 82-105, Elsevier.

Scott, N. Sera, M.D. & Georgopoulos, A. (2015). An information theory analysis of spatial decisions in cognitive development, Frontiers in Neuroscience, DOI: 0.3389/fnins.2015.00014.

Scott, N., Leuthod, A., Sera, M. D., and Georgopoulos, A. P. (2015) Differential Neural Activity Patterns for Spatial Relations in Humans: A MEG Study. Experimental Brain Research, DOI 10007/s0021-015-44676.

Kurisnki, E., Jambor, E. & Sera, M.D. (2015) Spanish grammatical gender: its effect on native Hungarian speakers, International Journal of Bilingualism, pp. 1-18. DOI: 10.1177/1367006915576833

Sera, M. D., Cole, C., Oromendia, M. & Koenig, M. (2014). Object familiarity facilitates foreign word learning in preschoolers.  Language Learning and Development, Vol. 10, Issue 2. 129-148.

Sera, M.D., Johnson, K., & Kuo, J. (2013) Classifiers augment and maintain shape-based categorization in Mandarin speakers. Language and Cognition, 5 (1) 1-23.

Sera, M. D. & Scott, N. (2013) Development of cognitive control: Where are we and what’s next? In Zelazo, P. & Sera, M.D. (editors) The Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology, Volume 37: Developing Cognitive Control Processes: Mechanisms, Implications, and Interventions, Wiley, pp 233-245.

Zelazo, P. & Sera, M. D. (2013) Developing Cognitive Control Processes: Mechanisms, Implications and Interventions. Co-Editor of Volume 37 of the Minnesota Symposiam on Child Psychology, Wiley.

Sera, M. D. & Millet, K. G. (2011) Developmental differences in shape processing. Cognitive Development, 26 (1), 40-56.

Kurisnki, E. & Sera, M. D. (2011) Does learning Spanish grammatical gender change English adults’ concepts of inanimate objects? Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 14 (2), 203-220.

Sera, M., & Goodrich, W. (2010) Who thinks that a piece of furniture refers to a broken couch? Count-mass constructions and individuation in English and Spanish. Journal of Cognitive Linguistics, 21 (3), 419-442.

Kuo, Y., & Sera, M. (2009) Classifier effects on human categorization: the role of shape classifiers in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics, Volume 18, Number 1, pp. 1-19.,

Sera, M., & Millett, K. (2008). The acquisition of English by Spanish-Speaking preschoolers. Paper presented at the 25th International Conference of English Teaching and Learning: 2008 International Conference on English Instruction and Assessment.

Martin, A. J. & Sera, M. D. (2006) The acquisition of spatial constructions in ASL and English. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, Volume 11, Number 4, pp 391-402.

Sera, M., Elieff, C., Forbes, J., Burch, M. Rodríguez, W., Poulin-Dubois, D. (2002) When language affects cognition and when it does not: An analysis of grammatical gender and classification. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 131(3), 377-397.

Manning, C., Sera, M., & Pick, H.(2002). Understanding how we talk about space: An examination of the meaning of English spatial prepositions. In K.R. Coventry and P. Oliver (Ed.) Spatial Language: Cognitive and Computational Perspectives, pp. 147-164. Dordrecht, NL: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Abecassis, M., Sera, M., Yonas, A., & Schwade, J. (2001) What’s in a shape? Children represent shape variability differently than adults when naming objects. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 78, pp. 213–239.