Developmental science

This programme provides a first class training in the mechanisms of human learning and development

Our researchers examine how nature and nurture interact across the lifespan, from before birth through infancy and childhood, on to adulthood and old age. Our diverse research group houses expertise in cognitive, linguistic and social development, individual differences and genetics, cognitive neuroscience techniques and computational modelling.

Students can take advantage of our excellent facilities for developmental work. Testing rooms in our newly-built Developmental Lab include multiple eye trackers for use with both infants and older children. The department's NIRS, EEG/ERP facilities, and its motion-tracking device are suitable for use with infants and children of all ages. Our differential work uses massive twin study datasets, and computational modelling is facilitated by Edinburgh's superb computing cluster.

Students can take advantage of our strong links to the departments of Linguistics and Philosophy, as well as the Schools of Informatics and Medicine. Professional development as a researcher is complemented by regular lab meetings, seminars, and reading groups.


Staff working in this area include:

Research interests table spacer
Research interests
Dr Bonnie Auyeung Early child development (social and cognitive development), developmental disorders, Autism, ADHD , epilepsy, neural development, sex differences, early deprivation, prenatal development, adolescent development.
Professor Timothy Bates Genetics, cognitive epidemiology, cognitive potential, personality, group behaviour, dyslexia, language impairment.
Dr Neil Bramley Causal cognition, active learning, hypothesis generation, control, judgment and decision making, resource rationality, game theory, optimal teaching, iterated learning, rational analysis, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science.

Professor Holly Branigan

Language production, dialogue, language development, bilingualism.
Dr Nicolas Chevalier Executive function development, cognitive development, developmental cognitive neuroscience.
Professor Martin Corley Production and comprehension of natural language, speech production.
Dr Leonidas Doumas Analogy, relational reasoning, mental representation, cognitive development, computational modelling, neural networks.
Professor Wendy Johnson Individual differences, intelligence and personality, lifespan development of intelligence and personality, health and ageing, genetic and environmental influences on behaviour, intelligence, and personality.
Dr Aja Murray Developmental aspects of mental health phenotypes and their comorbidity: in particular, ADHD, autism, and conduct problems; quantitative methodology.
Dr Rene Mottus Personality development in childhood and later life, computational modelling of person-environment transactions, within-individual variability of personality and its associations with situational circumstances and specific behaviours, and psychometrics.
Dr Hugh Rabagliati Language development and processing, with a focus on meaning, cognitive development, psycholinguistics in neurodevelopmental disorders.

Dr Hilary Richardson

Theory of mind; cognitive development; development of functionally specialized brain regions; role of experience in cognitive & brain development

Dr Anne Templeton

My over-arching research interest is applying the social identity approach to intra and intergroup processes. My research primarily focusses on crowd psychology and using principles of group identity to improve crowd safety in emergencies and at mass events.

Possible topics

  • The relationship between creativity and executive function.
  • Computational modelling of conceptual development.
  • Developmental cognitive neuroscience of language.
  • The development of cultural and communicative convention systems.
  • The development of language production skills.
  • Life-span development of cognitive and non-cognitive abilities.
  • Sex differences during infancy.
  • Development of attention and working memory.


Developmental Science research group

Labs and facilities at the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

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For further information, contact the Programme Secretary, Katie Keltie

Katie Keltie

To discuss academic matters, contact the Programme Director, Rene Mottus.

Rene Mottus

Find out more

Fees, funding, and how to apply