Dr. Amy Finn
- Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto
My long term goal is to understand how cognitive and brain development support or constrain learning outcomes. Developmental cognitive neuroscience is unveiling vast structural and functional changes in neural systems across the brain. Likewise, core memory systems undergo substantial change across development. What do these changes mean for learning and memory systems? For language acquisition and achievement? For learning in more versus less enriching environments Answering these questions is fundamental to understanding the nature of learning during childhood, to knowing why there are age-related limits on learning (critical or sensitive periods), and to understanding the role of the environment in shaping the relationship between brain development, cognitive development and learning.
Dr. Patricia A. Ganea
- Associate Professor, Department of Applied Psychology & Human Development
- Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto
Dr. Ganea’s primary research area is early cognitive development. She investigates the processes involved in young children's learning about the world through symbolic means, such as language, pictures, videos, and replica objects. She is especially interested in children's use of language to think and communicate about what is perceptually not present. Developing the ability to communicate about absent objects and events is a major cognitive achievement, one that enables children to learn about the world indirectly. Her research is focusing on the social, linguistic and representational factors that influence children’s learning about the world. She is also interested in how children develop an understanding of the pragmatics of language and of social cognition.
Dr. Joan Grusec
Professor Emerita, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto.
In our lab my we study determinants of parenting and the impact of different kinds of parenting on children’s social and emotional outcomes. We want to know what makes parents effective in achieving their socialization goals. We are also interested in what makes some parents more effective than others at this task. Lack of knowledge about how to successfully help children learn to function well in society is one variable that determines parenting effectiveness. But there are other reasons for problematic parenting that are not so straightforward. Thus we are particularly interested in cognitions (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions that interfere with the ability of parents to apply their knowledge of how to raise children.
With respect to effective parenting, it is evident that this does not involve simply the application of specific strategies and techniques, or the adoption of specific styles of interaction. Outcomes for children depend on the interaction of parenting strategies and features of children (e.g., temperament, age, sex, mood). As well, children are operating in different domains relevant to socialization, that is, they are behaving in a given way for any number of reasons, and different parental responses are appropriate in different domains. For example, children could be acting badly because they are distressed and need comforting or because they lack knowledge and need information or because they are showing off and need to be ignored. My students and I are trying to identify the conditions that promote parents’ knowledge in these various areas and the successful application of that knowledge.
Dr. David Haley
Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Toronto Scarborough
Dr. Haley studies the parent-infant relationship. For example, how do parents influence the infant’s mind and, in turn, how do infants influence the parent’s mind? More specifically, how does stress affect our earliest memories and how do parents influence the development of these basic stress-memory functions? While much is known about the positive and negative actions of stress on memory in adults and children, it remains unclear what is the short- and long-term impact of infant stress on mental development. A second area of his research examines how infant emotional signals modulate adult attention. While enhanced emotional and perceptual adult responses to infant cues have been examined widely, it remains unknown how infant signals facilitate and compete with higher-order cognitive control processes (such as selective attention) in adults. By measuring neural responses to infant cues, and, more importantly, their power to distract adults when engaged in a competing (cognitive) task, it is possible to observe the cortical interplay of emotional, perceptual, and cognitive processes in everyday acts of care, and begin to quantify the cognitive costs of caregiving for parents. The ultimate goals, then, of his research are to optimize early cognitive development and to maximize cognitive resources for caregivers.
Dr. Charles Helwig
- Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto
My research examines the development of moral and social judgments from the preschool years through adulthood, with a focus on the development of moral concepts related to societal issues and social institutions, such as freedoms, civil liberties, and democracy. In my lab, we have investigated children’s understanding of democratic decision making and rights not only in the context of society at large but in other social contexts such as the family, the school, and the peer group, and more recently in cross-cultural research conducted in China and Canada. This research has found that Chinese children develop notions of rights and democratic concepts that share many features with those found among Western children and adolescents. More recently, we have been investigating the implications of democratic family and school environments and autonomy support for children’s psychological well-being across cultures as well as children’s understanding of psychological control and other parenting practices.
Dr. Jennifer Jenkins
- Professor, Human Development and Applied Psychology, OISE/UT
- Atkinson Chair of Early Child Development and Education
- Director of the Atkinson Centre
- Academic Director at the Fraser Mustard Institute of Human Development at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Jennifer Jenkins’ research focuses on the influence of marital, sibling and parent-child relationships on young children’s social understanding, early cognitive development and well-being. She studies why some children are more resilient than others when exposed to risky environments and is particularly interested in sibling differences. She runs a birth-cohort, longitudinal study of 500 families that have been followed up for seven years.
Dr. Elizabeth K. Johnson
- Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Mississauga
- Cross-appointed to the Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto
Dr. Johnson's Child Language and Speech Studies Lab (C.L.A.S.S.) is located on the fourth floor of UTM's Communication, Culture and Technology Building, along with all of the other labs in the Psychology Department’s Human Communication Group. Her main line of research is focused on understanding how children acquire their native language(s). A sampling of topics recently under study in her lab include the development of spoken word recognition, how infants learn to cope with connected speech processes and segment words from speech, audio-visual speech perception, infant multilingualism, accent and dialect perception, the development of word-learning heuristics, experiential effects on voice recognition, the link between early perception and production, and the acquisition of language-specific prosody. For a more detailed and up-to-date description of Dr. Johnson's research, please see her lab page (http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/infant-child-centre/infant-language-lab).
Dr. Kang Lee
- Professor, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto
- Research Researcher (full professor rank), Department of Psychology & Center for Human Development, University of California, San Diego
- Adjunct Professor, School of Education, Zhejiang Normal University, China
- Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Psychology, Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, China
Dr. Lee is a developmental psychologist who studies the emergence and development of social cognition and social behavior and the underlying cognitive-cultural-neural mechanisms. Since 1994, he has mainly focused on two major issues.
The first is the development of moral cognition and action with a specific focus on verbal deception. He uses experimental methods to investigate how children come to grips with the concept and moral implication of lying, whether children are gullible or they are able to detect others’ lies, and whether children can tell convincing lies in various social situations. He also examines the cognitive-social-cultural factors that affect the development of lying and truth-telling. In addition, He uses neuroscience methods (e.g., EEG, fMRI, fNIRS) to examine neural-physiological correlates of lying and truth-telling in children and adults.
The second focus of his research is on the development of social perception with a specific focus on face processing. He uses psychophysical methods to study how children and adults process both stable and dynamic social information in a face. With regard to stable facial information, he focus on how children and adults perceive, encode, and recognize different kinds of faces (e.g., race). With regard to dynamic facial information, he studies how children and adults detect and interpret others’ gaze displays in various social contexts. In addition, he uses neuroscience methods (e.g., EEG, fMRI, fNIRS) to examine neural-physiological correlates of face processing in children and adults.
Dr. Tina Malti
- Associate Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Mississauga
- Affiliate Research Scientist, Violence Research Centre, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge
- Affiliate Research Scientist, Program in Education, Afterschool and Resiliency, Harvard Medical School & McLean Hospital
- Affiliate Research Scientist, Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Dr. Malti’s research focuses on social-emotional and moral development from early childhood to adolescence. Specifically, she studies the development of social and moral emotions in the context of everyday conflict in peer relationships, such as sympathy, guilt and respect, as well as their biological correlates. In addition, she investigates the long-term effects of these emotions on children’s and adolescents’ prosocial and antisocial behaviour. In her recent work, she combines multiple measures, such as (clinical) interviews, naturalistic observations, eye tracking, and autonomic response, to gain new insight into individual differences in children’s social-emotional development and trajectories of adaptive and maladaptive social behaviour. Her applied line of research transforms this basic developmental research into intervention strategies, especially in school and out-of-school time settings. This intervention research focuses on the process of identifying, implementing, and evaluating components of evidence-based interventions that are likely to promote social-emotional and moral development and decrease antisocial behaviour. Taken together, the objective of these lines of work is to advance social-emotional development and mental health and to help children and youth succeed in their school and out-of-school time settings.
Dr. Doug VanderLaan
- Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Mississauga
- Collaborator Scientist, Underserved Populations Research Program, Child, Youth and Family Division
Dr. VanderLaan’s research examines gender expression across the lifespan and sexual orientation development. Much of this work focuses on questions surrounding same-sex sexual orientation, gender-nonconforming behaviour, and transgender identity to enhance our understanding of human diversity. Identifying factors associated with psychological well-being among individuals who are members of sexual orientation and gender minority groups is also a major focus, particularly as well-being relates to social experiences with family members and peers.