Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology
Emotion; Social Development; Developmental Transitions
My research focuses on the study of social and emotional processes in interpersonal contexts. This research focuses on the development of these capacities in infancy and early childhood through two distinct empirical lines of inquiry. My first line of research explores infant emotional development. This research has focused on the development of differential behavioral responding to discrete emotions. While most research on infant emotional development has focused on differential responding by valence (i.e., positive vs. negative emotions), this series of studies compares multiple emotions (i.e., anger, fear, sadness, disgust, joy) to explore the development of behavioral response patterns unique to specific emotions. I have also conducted research on infant sensitivity to specific cues relating to emotional communication, such as context, expressiveness, and clarity of the emotional signal. Findings indicate that infants are quite sensitive to these aspects of emotional communication and can utilize them to determine the authenticity of emotional displays. A second line of research investigates infant development following developmental transitions, specifically the acquisition of walking. My collaborators and I recently discovered that infant receptive and productive language increases significantly following the onset of walking. We have replicated this finding multiple times with American infants, as well as recently with as sample of infants from Shanghai, China who were exposed to Mandarin Chinese. We are currently investigating underlying mechanisms that might account for this unexpected finding, including development in infant representation, understanding of intention, imitation and responding to social cues (i.e., gesture and joint attention). I received my bachelor of science from Vanderbilt University, where I majored in developmental psychology, cognitive studies, and elementary education. While at Vandy, I worked with Professor Teddi Walden investigating social development in typically developing children and children at risk for autism. I continued my studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where I worked with Professor Joseph Campos on infant emotional development and developmental change following locomotor transitions. I completed my Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology in 2012.