Environmental Factors in Early Childhood

Dr. Bruce Thompson’s research addresses environmental factors that impact early childhood language and cognitive development. He currently has two interconnected projects that focus on emergent metacognitive reasoning in early childhood and the role of gender and family socioeconomic status.  One study is investigating the effects of poverty on parents' ability to provide metacognitive language within their everyday discourse with children.  The analyses focus on talk about the mind as a self-regulatory process (e.g. planning, self-evaluation and strategic thought).  A second study is exploring emergent theory of mind ability (a facet of metacognitive reasoning).  The term “theory of mind” refers to children’s ability to abstractly represent their own states of mind and to infer others’ beliefs, intentions and knowledge.  This is thought to be pivotal for perspective taking, collaboration and empathy.  Studies are conducted in partnership with Portland area preschools and daycare centers, including several Head Start preschools.  He has a symbiotic relationship where access to participating families forms the foundation for data collection; and where teams of committed, USM research students also volunteer to assist in preschool classrooms.  Professor Thompson is also the faculty coordinator for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

Research Mission

To support research, scholarship and creative activity to: promote knowledge, discovery and practical application to advance Maine's economy, communities and the quality of life for Maine citizens; to strengthen classroom education and transform the lives of students through real world learning opportunities; and to support faculty and staff commitment to excellence in scholarly accomplishments regionally, nationally and internationally.