Developmental Psychology research group

About us

The group is composed of researchers that are experts in developmental psychology and psychopathology. Utilising multidisciplinary approaches the research expertise includes: infant social and conceptual development (core knowledge), cognitive, social and educational development (reading, language, numeracy) in typical and atypical populations, perception of facial appearance, the development of fears and phobias, bullying and victimization, premature birth, psychotic experiences and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The research group has published over 100 research articles in refereed journals, is currently home to six PhD students and has attracted substantial research funding from both the private and public sector. The group's research toolkit includes a wide range of equipment and a baby laboratory.

Current projects

  • Cognitive and social development from pre-natal and within the first two years of life, as well as premature infants and children.
  • The development of reading, numerical and language abilities in infants and preschoolers.
  • Cognitive development in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Williams syndrome and Down syndrome and associated disorders.
  • Theory of Mind and face processing in individuals with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder and in infants and preschoolers.
  • People's beliefs and experiences concerning facial appearance and disfigurement.
  • The causes of anxiety disorders and how fear-related cognitions and behaviours are acquired.
  • Bullying between peers and siblings and the relationship with psychopathology.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents.
  • Genetic and environmental mechanisms underlying psychotic experiences.
  • The dyadic mother-infant relationship and peri-natal depression: cognitive, social and emotional development within the first year of life.
  • Comparative cognition: the origins of knowledge in infants and animals.


Postdoctoral researchers

  • Dr Hiwet Costa
  • Dr Aiman El Asam
  • Dr Marge Palmer

PhD and postgraduate students

  • Basel Elkhodary
  • Martina Heinrich
  • Rashma Hirani
  • Hayley Hunt
  • Conor McNeilly
  • Mahitab Sherif
  • Bethany Ann Nicholson (research assistant)

Collaborators and affiliated research groups

Research is conducted through an extensive network of collaborating primary and secondary schools in or near Kingston-upon-Thames and with other universities, organisations, charities and hospitals in the UK and overseas: University of Sussex; University of Brighton; Middlesex University; University of Birmingham; University of Nottingham; Durham University; UCL; Institute of Education; University of Surrey; CBCD, Birkbeck, University of London; King's College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience; University of Oxford; Goldsmiths University of London; University of Warwick.

Current grant awards

  • ESRC Research Grant (£261,619) ES/J00751X/1. The Role of Vicarious Learning in Preventing and Treating Children's Fears (2012-15). (CA)
  • British Academy (£5,687). Visual perspective-taking in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (2011-2012). (EB).
  • Qatar National Research Foundation ($1000,000). Comparative study of cyber bullying in Qatar and the UK: risk factors, impact on health and solutions (2013-16). (MS).
  • Qatar National Research Foundation ($900,000). Premature Children in Qatar and the UK: Disability, Cognitive, Eating and Behaviour Development (2015-18). (MS).
  • Qatar National Research Foundation ($872,000). Continuous Trauma and PTSD in Qatar and in the Gaza Strip: Risk Factors and Causes, Consequences and Resiliency Factors (2015-18). (MS).
  • British Academy (£9,960). The use of eye-tracking to investigate landmark knowledge and route-learning strategies in typical and atypical development (2012-2013).  (JVH).
  • Nuffield Foundation (£139,564). Improving preschoolers' number foundations (2015-2016). (JVH).

Representative publications

  • Reynolds, G, Field, A. P. & Askew, C. (2014). Effect of Vicarious Fear Learning on Children's Heart Rate Responses and Attentional Bias for Novel Animals. Emotion, 14, 995-1006.
  • Askew, C., Cakir, K., Poldsam, L., & Reynolds, G. (2014). The effect of disgust and fear modelling on children's disgust and fear for animals. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123, 566-577.
  • Back, E. & Jordan, T.R (2014). Revealing variations in perception of mental states from dynamic facial expressions: a cautionary note.4 PloS one, 9(1), e84395. ISSN (online) 1932-6203.
  • Back, E. & Apperly. I. A (2010). Two sources of evidence on the non-automaticity of true and false belief ascription. Cognition, 115(1), 54-70.
  • Samara, M., Wolke, D., & Marlow N. (2008). Pervasive Behaviour problems at six years of age in a whole population sample of children born at 25 weeks of gestation or less. Pediatrics, 122(3), 562-573.
  • Lereya, S., Samara, M., & Wolke, D. (2013) Meta analysis on parenting behaviour and victimisation at school. Child Abuse & Neglect, S0145-2134(13)00073-2. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.03.001.
  • Shakoor, S., Jaffee, S. R., Andreou, P., Bowes, L., Ambler, A. P., Caspi, A., & Arseneault, L. (2011). Mothers and children as informants of bullying victimization: results from an epidemiological cohort of children. Journal of abnormal child psychology39(3), 379-387.
  • Shakoor, S., McGuire, P., Cardno, A. G., Freeman, D., Plomin, R., & Ronald, A. (2014). A shared genetic propensity underlies experiences of bullying victimization in late childhood and self-rated paranoid thinking in adolescence. Schizophrenia bulletin, 41, 754 - 763.
  • Uller, C., Urquhart, C., Lewis, J. & Berntsen, M. (2013). Ten-month-old infants' reaching choices for 'more': the relationship between inter-stimulus distance and number. Frontiers, 4, 1-5.
  • Uller, C. (2008). Developmental and evolutionary considerations on numerical cognition.  Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 6:4, 237-253.
  • Van Herwegen, J., Smith, T., & Annaz, D. (in press). Looking behaviour in children with Williams syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders during Theory of Mind tasks. Research in Developmental Disabilities.
  • Van Herwegen, J. (2015). Williams syndrome and its cognitive profile:  the importance of eye movements. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 8, 143-151