Ji Son

College of Natural & Social Sciences
Department of Psychology
Office KH3061
(323) 343-2261


I am a Professor of Psychology at CalStateLA and enjoy teaching statistics and cognitive psychology. My goal is to equip students with modern skills and perspectives that will continue on with them beyond their time at CalStateLA.

When I am not teaching courses or conducting research with my excellent students, you can find me parenting two cute boys, attempting to go viral on twitterblogging about my experimental parenting style, baking muffins with vegetables in them, and obsessively reading NYTimes and the Atlantic.

  Better Book Project at Google's EngEdu Summit


I teach courses in research methodology, statistics, developmental psychology and cognitive development. My classes are designed to get students interested in pursuing research, practiced in critical thinking, engaged in theoretical debate, and intent on real-world application. In an increasingly information-rich world, students need to understand how to pick out, attend to, and integrate relevant information. This need is the focus of my teaching philosophy as well as my research.

As a researcher who also teaches, I lament the lack of data-based design in learning materials. Funded in part by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, I have co-authored an interactive introductory statistics textbook with James Stigler, author of the acclaimed Teaching Gap and the Learning Gap. The book, Statistics and Data Science: A Modeling Approach, is available at CourseKata.org. In addition to being designed fundamentally with how people learn in mind, this book continues to improve based on embedded assessments and user-feedback. Additionally, I am also the director of the CalStateLA Statistics Teaching Collaboration and have a General Statistics Online Course featured on Educator.com


I research the development of abstract, intelligent, and flexible thinking – the kind of thinking that helps us tackle new problems and challenges. My research examines how people learn about the world and when they apply their old learning to new problems, a process commonly called generalization. With a variety of methodologies, I test what aspects of the learning experience can lead to generalization. These research studies are done with very young children learning about shapes, colors, and patterns but also with school-age children and adults learning about statistics, data science, and mathematics.

In addition to laboratory-based research, I have also been active in helping institutions (e.g., schools, districts, departments, universities, and systems of universities) build infrastructure to help improve teaching and learning. Many professors, especially in the CSU, consider themselves to be teacher-scholars. My goal is to innovate methods for professors to apply their data and theory-driven instincts that are natural in a laboratory to teaching/learning situations. Often professors simply execute what they think is best but institutionally have very little mechanisms for examining our intuitions and design decisions with data. I am currently on several projects with CalStateLA and the CSU to build infrastructure and protocols for how to engage in improvement science with teaching.

Get more information about research at CourseKata.org and the CalStateLA Learning Lab website.


Find more papers and downloads here.

Title Date

Eghterafi, W., Tucker, M.C., Zhang, Y., & Son, J.Y. (2022). Effect of feedback with video-based peer modeling on learning and self-efficacy. Online Learning Journal.


Tucker, M.C., Shaw, S.T., Son, J.Y., & Stigler, J.W. (2022). Teaching statistics and data science with R. Journal of Statistics and Data Science Education, .


Lawson, A.P., & Son, J.Y. (2021). Priming students to calculate inhibits sense-making. Journal of Cognitive Science, 29, 41-69.


Zhang, I., Givvin, K. B., Sipple, J. M., Son, J. Y., & Stigler, J. W. (2021). Instructed hand movements affect students’ learning of an abstract concept from video. Cognitive Science, 45, 12-40.


Ramirez, G., Covarrubias, R., Jackson, M., & Son, J.Y. (2021). Making hidden resources visible in a minority serving college context. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.


Son, J.Y., Blake, A.B., Fries, L., & Stigler, J.W. (2021). Modeling first: Applying learning science to the teaching of introductory statistics. Journal of Statistics Education.


Ford, B., Chilton, K., Endy, C., Henderson, M., Jones, B. A., & Son, J. Y. (2020). Beyond big data: Teaching introductory US history in the age of student success. Journal of American History, 106(4), 989-1011.


Fries, L., Son, J.Y., Givvin, K.B., & Stigler, J.W. (2020). Practicing connections: A framework to guide instructional design for learning in complex domains. Educational Psychology Review.


Stigler, J.W., Son, J.Y., Givvin, K.B., Blake, A., Fries, L., Shaw, S.T., & Tucker, M.C. (2020). The Better Book approach for education research and development. Teachers College Record.


Lawson, A.P., Davis, C., & Son, J.Y. (2019). Not all flipped classes are the same: Using learning science to design flipped classrooms. Journal of Scholarship in Teaching and Learning.


Lawson, A.P., Mirinjian, A., & Son, J.Y. (2018). Can preventing calculations help students learn math? Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 2, 178-197. https://doi.org/10.1891/1945-8959.17.2.178


Son, J.Y., Ramos, P., DeWolf, M., Loftus, W., & Stigler, J.W. (2018). Exploring the practicing-connections hypothesis: Using gesture to support coordination of ideas in understanding a complex statistical concept. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41235-017-0085-0


Geller, E.H., Son, J. Y., & Stigler, J.W. (2017). Conceptual explanations and understanding fraction comparisons. Learning and Instruction, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2017.05.006


DeWolf, M., Son, J. Y., Bassok, M., & Holyoak, K. J. (2017). Relational priming based on a multiplicative schema for whole numbers and fractions. Cognitive Science, doi:10.1111/cogs.12468


Son, J.Y., & Rivas, M.J. (2016). Designing clicker questions to stimulate transfer. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 2, 193-207.

Son, J.Y., Narguizian, P., Beltz, D., & Desharnais, R.A. (2016). Comparing physical, virtual, and hybrid flipped labs for general education biology. Online Learning Journal, 20, 228–243. 2016
Lin, Y.I., Son, J.Y., & Rudd, J.A. (2016). Asymmetric translation between multiple representations in chemistry. International Journal of Science Education, 38, 644-662. 2016

Thai, K.-P., Son, J.Y., & Goldstone, R.L. (2016). The simple advantage in perceptual and categorical generalization. Memory & Cognition, 44, 292-306. 


Fyfe, E.,R., McNeil, N., Son, J.Y., & Goldstone, R.L. (2014). Concreteness fading in mathematics and science instruction: A systematic review. Educational Psychology Review, 26, 9-25.

Son, J.Y., Smith, L.B., Goldstone, R.G., & Leslie, M. (2012). The importance of being interpreted: Grounded words and children's relational reasoning. Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, 3, 45. 2012
Kuwabara, M., Son, J.Y., & Smith, L.B. (2011). Attention to context: U.S. and Japanese children's emotional judgments. Journal of Cognition and Development, 12, 502-517. 2011
Son, J.Y., Smith, L.B., & Goldstone, R.L. (2011). Connecting instances to promote children's relational reasoning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 108, 260-277. 2011
Goldstone, R. L., Son, J. Y, & Byrge, L. (2011). Early perceptual learning. Infancy, 16, 45-51. 2011
Son, J.Y. (2010). Abstracting the Concrete: How Symbols, Experiences, and Language Act as Forces of Contextualization. Saarbrücken, Germany: Lambert Academic Publishing. 2010
Son, J.Y., Doumas, L.A.A., & Goldstone, R.L. (2010). When do words promote analogical transfer? Journal of Problem Solving, 3, 52-92. 2010
Goldstone, R.L., Landy, D.H., & Son, J.Y. (2010). The education of perception. Topics in Cognitive Science, 2, 265-284. 2010
Kellman, P.J., Massey, C.M., & Son, J.Y. (2010). Perceptual learning modules in mathematics: Enhancing students' pattern recognition, structure extraction, and fluency. Topics in Cognitive Science, 2, 285-305. 2010
Son, J.Y., & Goldstone, R.L. (2009). Contextualization in perspective. Cognition and Instruction, 27, 1-39. 2009
Son, J.Y., & Goldstone, R.L. (2009). Fostering general transfer with specific simulations. Pragmatics & Cognition, 17, 1-42. 2009
Son, J.Y., Smith, L.B., & Goldstone, R.L. (2008). Simplicity and generalization: Short-cutting abstraction in children’s object categorizations. Cognition, 108, 626-638. 2008
Goldstone, R.L., & Son, J.Y. (2005). The transfer of scientific principles using concrete and idealized simulations. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 14, 69-114. 2005
Goldstone, R.L., & Son, J.Y. (2005). Similarity. In K.J. Holyoak & R.G. Morrison (Eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning (pp. 13-36). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2005




Post-Doctoral Training, Psychology 2007-2009

  • UCLA
    Los Angeles, CA

PhD, Cognitive Science and Psychology 2007

  • Indiana University
    Bloomington, IN

BS, Cognitive Science 2002

  • UCLA
    Los Angeles, CA