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In the face of the world’s daunting complexity, we are able to make sense of things in a seemingly effortless way. I study how people marshal explanatory reasoning to understand experience. In particular, I argue that much of cognition can be understood as “abductive inference” or inference to the best explanation. For example, people use abductive inference when they reason about the most likely cause of an event, or the most likely category of an object. My primary line of work explores the properties of abductive reasoning that are common to superficially disparate cognitive processes such as categorization and causal reasoning—especially what principles are used for generating and evaluating potential explanations, and how these explanations are translated into beliefs. I study these questions not only in adults, but also in children, to understand the developmental trajectory of these processes. Because abductive inference plays such a central role in cognition, this research focus also gives me the opportunity to study quite diverse issues that interest me, such as how explanatory reasoning interacts with social cognition through lay theories of decision-making; how people conceptualize the relationships among mathematical concepts; and how shifts in framing can influence the plausibility of biological explanations of behavior.