Nadia Chernyak, assistant professor of cognitive sciences, won a prestigious CAREER award for promising early-career faculty. Heather Ashbach / UCI School of Social Sciences

Nadia Chernyak, UCI assistant professor of cognitive sciences, has received a $736,366 National Science Foundation CAREER grant to investigate how cognitive skills shape our understanding of equity. Previous research suggests that math skills – particularly comprehension of fractions – can help explain whether or not a child understands fairness and inequality. Chernyak and her team will engage 3- to 8-year-old study participants in online interviews and games that focus on pro-social behaviors, such as helping and sharing, while also establishing their baseline cognitive skills through math activities. “We tend to agree that inequality is a problem, but we have lots of disagreements on how exactly to rectify it,” she said. “One of the reasons for these disagreements may be tied to individual differences in reasoning about numbers.” The CAREER award, considered the NSF’s most prestigious honor, recognizes early-career academics poised to make significant research and educational advances in their fields.