About Us

We work with children from infancy into young adulthood and are based within the School of Applied Science here at Abertay. Our expertise is in development and learning, such as:

  • Children’s social learning.

  • Language learning.

  • Self-Processing.

  • Child and young witness testimony.

  • Gender stereotypes and biases.

  • Children’s cybersecurity skill development.

  • Maths skills development.


Boy with plastic shapes experiment

Meet the team

Dr Lara Wood

Lara is the Programme Lead for Psychology with Development and Education. Her research focusses on how children view and categorise their social world and how other people can influence the learning and behaviour of children. Lara’s work includes investigating who children learn from in different contexts. Lara also conducts research into gender bias across childhood, specifically investigating the development and influence of gender stereotypes on children’s subject and career pathways. Lara is also interested in how we best teach young children to be cybersecure.

Find out more/contact Lara Wood.

Dr Janet McLean

My research focuses on children’s cognitive development. In particular, I am interested in how memory and processing differences affect children’s development and learning of numerical and arithmetic knowledge. In addition, I am interested in how maths learning is affected by anxiety, including the reasons for how this can develop both within and outside of the school environment.  I am also interested in language production. This has focussed on whether the way children process and represent language is different from adults.

Find out more/contact Janet McLean.

Professor Vera Kempe

My research investigates how children and adults learn languages. I am also interested in studying how language changes through use. Another strand of my research looks into how emotion and communication interact, for example, by asking whether happy or sad people are more efficient communicators. To address these questions, my lab uses miniature languages that we construct to control what aspect of language our participants know already and what aspect of language we can manipulate to study them. Recently, we also became interested in studying how to make language learning, and learning in general, more fun using computer games.

Find out more/contact Vera Kempe.  

Professor Sheila Cunningham

My research focuses on social cognition across the lifespan. In particular, I am interested in self-processing biases, through which information associated with self attracts attention and is better remembered. My work explores both the development of self-processing biases, and the extent to which they can be applied in education to support children's processing and retention of information. I am also interested in stereotypes and prejudice, particularly looking at gender stereotype development and the impact of gender stereotypes and social learning on young people's decision-making.

Find out more/contact Sheila Cunningham.

Dr Julie Gawrylowicz

I am the Programme Lead for Psychology with Forensic Investigative Psychology and Psychology with Forensic Scene Investigation.

I am an expert in applied memory research. I am particularly interested in what factors impact our memory and how we can apply this knowledge to forensic settings, such as police interviews. I am also interested in examining what factors might undermine a victim’s or witness’s credibility in court. With technology becoming increasingly ingrained in society and everyday life I am interested in how new tech tools can improve investigative interviewing and impact jury decision-making. Achieving best evidence and empowering vulnerable witnesses and victims is key to my research programme.

Contact me if you are interested in how to best elicit forensic information from vulnerable witnesses and victims.

Find out more/contact Julie Gawrylowicz.

Post-doctoral and Post-graduate researchers

We have an active community of post-doctoral and post-graduate researchers including:

  • Zahra Ahmed – PhD Candidate and Research Assistant – Effects of self-cues on working memory and mathematical processing.
  • Sam Conway – PhD Candidate – Using virtual characters to elicit forensic information from children and young people.
  • Karen Golden - PhD candidate- Gender stereotypes and social learning impacting young people’s subject and career choices.
  • Maria Lamond- PhD candidate- How do we best teach our children to be cybersecure?
  • Joshua March – Research Fellow – Applying self-referencing in education.
  • Nikolay Panayotov – PhD candidate in Psychology and Computer Games.
  • Dawn Short- PhD candidate - Effects of attitudes, mindsets and anxiety on children’s maths performance.

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