developmental science interest group

University of Toronto

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Begum Ozdemir

Begum Ozdemir, M.A.

Graduate Student

Supervisor: Patricia Ganea

Email: begum.ozdemir@mail.utoronto.ca

Web: http://www.languageandlearninglab.com/

 

Research interests

Begum’s primary research interest covers how early development of cognitive and symbolic processes  enable children to acquire knowledge about and interact with the world around them. She is particularly interested in the dynamic relations between mental representation and emerging language ability. In this sense, she’s currently exploring individual differences as well as the developmental trajectory of children’s ability to update their mental representations on the basis of verbal testimony from toddlerhood to preschool years. As a second line of research, she is interested in early pragmatic development, specifically, perspective-taking ability of children in their communicative interactions. Currently, she’s working towards a new study on children’s ability to use prior discourse to disambiguate referents in an extended conversational discourse.

 

 

 

Fataneh Naghavi

Fataneh Naghavi

Graduate Student

Supervisor(s): David W. Haley, Ma’rof Redzuan

Email: Fatanehnaghavi@gmail.com

 

Research interests

Fataneh’s major research interests focus on family ecological factors, emotional development of adolescents. She has particular interests in family functioning, emotional intelligent and alexithymia. Highlighted in her works are sibling relationship, their gender and the family experiences that foster similarities and differences in the emotional development. In her recent work, she has begun to investigate parenting style and alexithymia in the context of family ecological factors. The findings of her past studies highlighted the importance of early adolescent’s background in enhancing emotional development. A body of her research has uncovered that the nature of the relationships between family functioning, alexithymia and emotional intelligence could be improved if families learn how to identify, express and manage their emotions since they can be model of identification, expression and management of emotions in their early adolescents as well.

 

 

 

Joanna Dudek

Joanna Dudek, M.A

Graduate Student

Supervisor(s): David Haley

Email: joanna.dudek@mail.utoronto.ca

 

Research interests

Joanna’s main interest lies in understanding the role of cognitive (i.e., executive and attention) and social cognitive (i.e., theory of mind) processes in the context of parenting and the parent-infant relationship. Specifically, she uses electroencephalography (EEG) and event-related potential (ERP) methodology to examine changes in cognitive and social cognitive function throughout pregnancy and postpartum, and links these changes to parent behaviors (i.e., maternal sensitivity and responsiveness) and infant outcomes (i.e. crying and sleep patterns). Additionally, she is interested in understanding how the moderating effects of maternal mood, anxiety, and stress might alter patterns of cognitive and neural change that are important for the expression of parenting behaviors.

 

 

 

Joanna Peplak

Joanna Peplak, M.A.

Graduate Student

Supervisor(s): Tina Malti

Email: j.peplak@mail.utoronto.ca

Web: http://uoft.me/maltilab

 

Research interests

Joanna’s interests lie in the development of children’s positively valenced moral emotions, such as respect, gratitude, and elevation, and how these emotions promote or impede children’s antisocial behaviour. Her Master’s thesis focused on examining the role of respect and sympathy in children’s overt aggressive behaviour. She hopes to extend this line of research further by examine how other moral emotions such as gratitude and schadenfreude contribute to children’s and adolescents’ overt and covert aggression (as well as their respective proactive and reactive subtypes), and how they may affect the development of adaptive peer relationships. Additionally, she aims to incorporate psychophysiological and neuroimaging measures to examine moral-emotional differences in aggressive and non-aggressive children. Her work is intended to promote healthy childhood development by informing educators and policy makers of various intervention strategies that foster moral emotions, and hinder amoral emotions.

 

 

 

Melissa Paquette-Smith

Melissa Paquette-Smith, M.A.

Graduate Student

Supervisor(s): Elizabeth Johnson

Email: m.paquette.smith@mail.utoronto.ca

Web: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/infant-child-centre/

 

Research interests

Melissa’s research looks at how infants process social information in their environment, and how this processing relates to the development of linguistic and social competencies. Her research uses perceptually based methodologies (such as orientation time, eye tracking) to explore the complex interplay between social and linguistic development. Her research program follows two major lines. The first line of research looks at how infants interpret and evaluate speakers based on the ‘way’ they speak (i.e., their tone of voice, or their accent). The second line of research looks at how children use the social information in their environment to acquire language (i.e., using tone of voice to infer word meaning). Melissa has also worked in collaboration with the Centre for Addiction and Mental to study the health service use patterns of individuals with autism.

 

 

 

Melissa Van Wert

Melissa Van Wert, MSW

Graduate Student

Supervisor(s): Faye Mishna

Email: melissa.vanwert@utoronto.ca

Web: http://www.socialwork.utoronto.ca/Page4.aspx

 

Research interests

Melissa’s research interests focus on the development of externalizing behaviour problems among children who have experienced abuse or neglect and those who are at risk of experiencing maltreatment. She is particularly interested in the reciprocal and interactive nature of the relationship between behaviour problems and maltreatment, and the impact of accumulating environmental risk and protective factors on this relationship. She is also interested in the assessment of behaviour problems by child welfare practitioners and the service decisions made once problems are identified.

 

 

 

Nicole A. Sugden

Nicole A. Sugden, M.A.

Graduate Student

Supervisor(s): Margaret Moulson

Email: nsugden@ryerson.ca

Web: http://psychlabs.ryerson.ca/beelab/

 

Research interests

Nicole studies how the environment influences face perception in hopes of better understanding what factors influence the development and plasticity of perceptual systems. Through the use of head-mounted cameras, she has captured infants' natural, daily lives and characterized how infants typically experience faces. Currently, she is examining how infants' natural, daily experience with faces influences what faces infants prefer, what faces infants can recognize, and how infants' brains respond to faces.  Nicole is also pursuing similar studies with adults.  She hopes to identify what factors are most important in shaping learning across the lifespan.  This knowledge may be used to develop or improve educational resources to benefit both typically and atypically developing individuals and to allow individuals to adapt more quickly to new environments.

 

 

 

Ruth Lee

Ruth Lee, M.A.

Graduate Student

Supervisor(s): Patricia Ganea

Email: rj.lee@mail.utoronto.ca

Web: http://languageandlearninglab.com

 

Research interests

Ruth is interested in how children use language to update their mental representations, particularly when what they hear contradicts their existing knowledge of the world. Using an eye-tracking methodology, she is currently asking how fictional scenarios that present characters engaging in odd behaviour constrain children's and adults' anticipation of upcoming linguistic input. She is also using short stories on video to investigate the effect of picture-text encoding conditions on young children's ability to use an inference to update a mental representation. A third project examines the strategies used by adolescents on the autism spectrum to interpret fiction. Using data from the Troseth lab at the University of Virginia, she is also using latent class analysis to investigate the effect of children's media environments on their ability to learn from video.

 

 

 

Sebastian Dys

Sebastian Dys, M.A.

Graduate Student

Email: sebastian.dys@mail.utoronto.ca

Web: http://uoft.me/maltilab

 

Research interests

The development of moral emotions, such as sympathy and guilt, is an integral component of children’s and adolescents’ social and emotional functioning. But why do some children feel happy about transgressing moral norms while others feel guilty? How do children who feel happy about rule violations process morally salient situations differently from those who feel badly?

As a third year PhD student in the Developmental Sciences program, I am interested in understanding the processes that underlie moral emotions. More specifically, my work examines how cognitive and affective processes interact on micro (i.e., second-to-second), and macro (i.e., over the course of months or years) time scales. In my research, I employ a multi-method approach (using automated emotion recognition technology, eye tracking, physiological measures, and interviews) in order to yield insight into how children’s attention allocation, thoughts, and feelings interact across development.

 

 

 

 

Tyler Colasante

Tyler Colasante, M.A.

Graduate Student

Supervisor(s): Tina Malti

Email: tyler.colasante@mail.utoronto.ca

Web: http://uoft.me/maltilab

 

Research interests

How do children’s and adolescents’ moral emotions, such as sympathy and guilt, and emotion regulation skills relate to their aggressive behavior? Moreover, how do these relations change over time as children develop? My research employs cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, as well as multiple methods and informants to address these questions. In a recent study I completed with a community-based sample, 4- and 8-year-old children’s moral emotions and negative emotionality predicted their aggressive behavior on a daily basis. In the near future, I will extend this research by incorporating psychophysiological and regulatory measures to assess the moral development and emotion regulation strategies of children with aggressive behavioral disorders. In the long-term, I aim to translate this research into effective interventions for children at risk of, or already displaying, elevated levels of aggression.

 

 

 

 

David C. M. O’Neill

David C. M. O’Neill, M.A.

Graduate Student

Supervisor(s): Joan Grusec

Email: david.oneill@mail.utoronto.ca

 

Research interests

David’s main research interests involve topics concerning the psychological aspects of ethics; ethics, in this sense, having the philosophical meaning of ‘the good life’. What are the psychological underpinnings of the good life?  As part of this overarching research question, he is currently looking at the complexities of socio-moral development across the lifespan, with the assumption that to have a belief that being a moral person is important to your sense of self is a key aspect of the good life.  Using the Domains of Socialization framework proposed by Grusec and Davidov (2010), he is currently undertaking a cross-sectional research study examining how parenting strategies influence the motivation to act prosocially and their effects on positive life outcomes.  Ultimately, he hopes that through a better understanding of the way individuals learn to be prosocial and their benefits we are able to develop better strategies for helping families nurture future generations and help people achieve ‘the good life’.

 

 

 

 

Sarah Zanette

Sarah Zanette, M.A

Graduate Student

Supervisor: Kang Lee

Email: s.zanette@mail.utoronto.ca

Web: www.kangleelab.com

 

Research interests

Sarah's research explored the development of deception in childhood. Specifically, she is currently conducting research to answer to key questions; (1) How can children's lies be detected? and (2) How do children with severe conduct problems tell antisocial and prosocial lies? To develop methods of detecting children's lies, Sarah is using computer vision technology to record and analyze children's facial expressions while lying and telling the truth using nonverbal behaviours. Furthermore, she is using linguistic analysis software programs to study the verbal markers of deception during both antisocial and prosocial lie-telling. To examine the lie-telling behaviours of children with severe conduct problems, Sarah is working with researchers at the Child Development Institute in a CIHR-funded project exploring how and why children with severe conduct problems tell lies differently from typically developing children.

 

 

 

 

Michelle Rodrigues

Michelle Rodrigues

Graduate Student

Supervisor: Jennifer Jenkins

Email: michelle.rodrigues@mail.utoronto.ca

Web: jennifermjenkins.com

 

Research interests

Michelle’s research examines various risk factors that are associated with the development of child psychopathology, and the sibling relationship as a protective factor. Furthermore, Michelle is responsible for coding discussions about conflict among various family members. She completed her Honours Bachelor of Science at the University of Toronto. In her undergraduate studies, Michelle created video stimuli, which were used to examine how children reasoned about social inclusion and exclusion in different contexts.

 

 

 

 

Noam Binnoon-Erez

Noam Binnoon-Erez

Graduate Student

Supervisor: Jennifer Jenkins

Email: noam.binnoon@mail.utoronto.ca

Web: jennifermjenkins.com

 

Research interests

Noam’s research examines personality differences among siblings and the effects of those differences on sibling relationship quality. She is also interested in screeners for early detection of child social and behavioural problems. In addition, Noam is responsible for coding sensitivity and cooperation within family dyads. Noam completed her specialized honours bachelor’s degree in psychology at York University. Her undergraduate thesis focused on an evaluation of a parenting intervention for teen mothers.

 

 

 

 

Heather Prime

Heather Prime, M.A.

Graduate Student

Supervisor(s): Dr. Jenny Jenkins

Email: heath.prime@gmail.com

Web: jennifermjenkins.com

 

Research interests

Heather Prime is completing her PhD in School and Clinical Child Psychology. She researches patterns of interaction in families, and their impact on children’s social, emotional and behavioural development. Specifically, she is interested in how parental and sibling sensitivity to children’s cognitive states fosters children’s theory of mind, language and cooperative abilities. One area of focus has been on sibling structures and the ways in which family size and birth order effects are moderated by sibling behaviour. Heather has worked at institutions including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, and Toronto District School Board, to support development and mental health in children and their families. Interested in teaching and public health, she has worked with George Brown College and the Atkinson Centre to promote translating research into policy and practice.

 

 

 

 

Tanya Danyliuk

Tanya Danyliuk, M.A.

Graduate Student

Supervisor(s): Joan Grusec

Email: tanya.danyliuk@mail.utoronto.ca

 

Research interests

I am year one of my PhD under the supervision of Dr. Joan Grusec.  My research interests include pro-social behaviours in children, moral and value development, and the role that parenting plays in child outcomes.  I am especially interested in exploring parenting interventions, and investigating what makes some interventions more effective than others.  I have also been chosen as the coordinator of a parenting program that the lab is currently establishing using Dr. Grusec’s research on parenting domains.

 

 

 

 

Adam Donato

Adam Donato, M.A.

Graduate Student

Supervisor: Kang Lee

Email: adam.donato@mail.utoronto.ca

Web: www.kangleelab.com

 

Research interests

For the past three years Adam has conducted program evaluation and treatment impact research on latency-aged children with conduct problems as a member of the Stop Now And Plan (SNAP) research team. Highlights include analyzing the impact of anxiety on the treatment of aggression, long-term follow-up using criminal record data, consulting on numerous program implementations across Canada, the US, and Europe, as well as developing and implementing a data system, implementation tool, and electronic case file to ease program delivery and data collection and eventually creating predictive analytic models to streamline treatment planning and service delivery. Adam completed his Honours Bachelor of Science at Saint Mary’s University. For his undergraduate thesis, Adam conducted EEG research looking at the effects of sleep deprivation on the attentional blink. Adam will be continuing his neuroimaging work at the Kang Lee lab using fNIRS to better understand the cognitive processes underlying conduct problems and the impact on treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

Kitty Miao Qian

Kitty Miao Qian, M.A.

Graduate Student

Supervisor: Kang Lee

Email: miao.qian@mail.utoronto.ca

 

Research interests

Kitty’s main interest lies in understanding the development of racial stereotypes, prejudices and discriminations in children. Specifically, she examines the development of social categorization, and how it affects the development of racial bias among children. She uses both Implicit and Explicit Racial Bias Test (IRBT and ERBT) to measure children’s implicit and explicit racial bias. Additionally, she is interested in understanding when and how race was viewed as a meaningful, psychologically salient category that guide children’s behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 year old girl, Illustration by Macarena Toro