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Department of Psychology

College of Arts & Sciences

David Estes

Associate ProfessorDavid Estes

Cognition and Cognitive Development • (307) 766-2941 • Bio Sciences Bldg 108

I am actively recruiting dedicated, well-prepared students.


     Ph.D., University of Michigan 1986

     B.A., Jacksonville State University 1970


 Academic Positions

     Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Wyoming, 1999

     Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Wyoming, 1992

     Assistant Professor of Human Development, Penn State University, 1986-1992

     Director, Child Development Laboratory, Penn State University, 1986-1992


     - General Psychology (Undergraduate)

     - Psychology of Adulthood (Undergraduate)

     - History and Systems of Psychology (Graduate)

     - Introduction to Research (Graduate)


 Research Interests

Optimal Development and Well-Being

My current work focuses on optimal development, which I define as well-being from a dynamic, developmental perspective. I am interested in optimal development across the lifespan, but with special emphasis on three crucial periods - early childhood, the transition to adulthood, and later adulthood. What are the key factors that promote or impede well-being during these periods?

Under the unifying theme of optimal development, these topics and questions are of special interest:

- Worldviews and Core Belief Systems

Worldview beliefs - fundamental assumptions about the nature of reality and human existence - can have a potentially powerful influence on well-being. How do worldviews develop over the lifespan and how do they promote or hinder well-being?

- Theories of Human Nature

One important category of worldview beliefs concerns the qualities, potentials, and dispositions we attribute to all humans. How do our core beliefs about human nature influence our values, attitudes, and behavior?

- Imagination

My earlier work focused on how children come to understand and use imagination and the role imagination plays in children's developing theory of mind. I continue to work on issues related to imagination and theory of mind, primarily in collaboration with my colleague Karen Bartsch. I am especially interested in using imagination as a window onto children's developing awareness of mental phenomena and their potential for mindfulness. More generally, I am interested in how imagination might be used to promote optimal development.


Recent and Selected Publications

Bartsch, K., Wade, C. E., & Estes, D. (2011). Children's attention to others' beliefs during persuasion: Improvised and selected arguments to puppets and people. Social Development, 20(2), 316-333.

McMahan, E. A., & Estes, D. (2010). Measuring lay conceptions of well-being: The Beliefs about Well-Being Scale. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(2), 267-287.

McMahan, E. A., & Estes, D. (2010). Hedonic versus eudaimonic conceptions of well-being: Evidence of differential associations with experienced well-being. Social Indicators Research, 103(1), 93-108.

Bartsch, K., Wright, J. C., & Estes, D. (2010). Young children's persuasion in everyday conversation: Tactics and attunement to others' mental states. Social Development 19(2), 394-416.

Estes, D. (2006). Metacognition. In Salkind, N. J. (Ed.) The encyclopedia of human development (pp. 832-834) London: Sage.

Estes, D., Chandler, M., Horvath, K., & Backus, D. (2003). American and British college students' epistemological beliefs about research on psychological and biological development. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 23, 625-642.

Estes, D. (1998). Children's awareness of their mental activity: The case of mental rotation. Child Development, 69, 1345-1360.

Estes, D., & Bartsch, K. (1997). Constraining the brain: The role of developmental psychology in cognitive neuroscience [Invited Commentary]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 20, 562-563.

Estes, D. (1994). Young children's understanding of the mind. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 15, 529-548.

Estes, D., Wellman, H., & Woolley, J. (1989). Children's understanding of mental phenomena. In H.W. Reese (Ed.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior (pp. 41-89). New York: Academic Press.

Wellman, H., & Estes, D. (1986). Early understanding of mental entities: A reexamination of childhood realism. Child Development, 57, 910-923.

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