Dr Sheila Cunningham

Senior Lecturer

School School of Social and Health Sciences

Department Division of Psychology

Contact info

+44 (0)1382 30 8592


I’m a Senior Lecturer in the Psychology Division, with research focusing on social cognition in both adults and children. Before joining Abertay in 2011, I was a Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen where I completed both my undergraduate psychology degree and my PhD in person perception. My work on social cognition explores the mechanisms and biases through which we process information about ourselves and other people, with a particular focus on memory formation in children and adults.

My research is currently funded by the Leverhulme Trust, ESRC and the Carnegie Trust, as well as internal studentships. For more details, please see my lab webpage.

I teach on the following modules:

  • PSY201: Social psychology with Research methods (Module leader)
  • PSY408: Advanced social and cognitive psychology (Module leader)
  • PSY507: Social and Developmental Psychology (MSc)


Gillespie-Smith, K, Ballantyne, C, Branigan, H, Turk, D. J., & Cunningham, S. J. (2018). The I in Autism: Severity and social functioning in Autism is related to self-processing. (accepted, British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 36, 127-141. doi: 10.1111/bjdp.12219

Hutchison, J., Martin, D., Slessor, G., Urquhart, J., Smith, K., & Cunningham, S. J. (2017). Shared cognitive biases influence the cumulative cultural evolution of stereotypes, Cognitive Science, 1-27. doi: 10.1111/COGS.12560

Martin, D., Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., Slessor, G. & Smith, K. (2017). How societal stereotypes might form and evolve via cumulative cultural evolution? Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11, 1-13. doi: 10.1111/SPC3.12338

Allan, K., Morson, S., Dixon, S., Martin, D. & Cunningham, S. J. (2017). Simulation-based mentalizing generates a ‘proxy’ self-reference effect in memory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 1074-1084. doi: 0.1080/17470218.2016.1209532

Cunningham, S. J. & Turk, S. J. (2017). A review of self-processing biases in cognition. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 987-995. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2016.1276609

Cunningham, S. J. (2016). The function of the self-attention network. Cognitive Neuroscience, 7, 21-22http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17588928.2015.1075485

Ross, J., Cunningham, S. J., & Martin, M. (2016). How do children develop a sense of self? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/how-do-children-develop-a-sense-of-self-56118

Sparks, S., Cunningham, S. J., & Kritikos, A. (2016). Culture modulates implicit ownership-induced self-bias in memory. Cognition, 153, 89-98. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027716301184

Martin, D., Swainson, R., Slessor, G., Hutchison, J., Marosi, D., & Cunningham, S.J. (2015). The simultaneous extraction of multiple social categories from unfamiliar faces. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 60, 51-58. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103115000311

Turk, D. J., Gillespie-Smith, K., McGowan, L., Havard, C., Conway, M. A., Krigolson, & Cunningham, S. J. (2015). Selfish learning: The impact of self-referential encoding on children’s literacy attainment. Learning & Instruction, 40, 54-60. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959475215300220

Cunningham, S. J. (2014). Person perception. In D. S. Dunn (Ed.) Oxford bibliographies in psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199828340/obo-9780199828340-0136.xml?rskey=lA6gdH&result=1&q=person+perception#firstMatch

Cunningham, S. J., Brebner, J. L., Quinn, F., & Turk, D. J. (2014). The self-reference effect on memory in early childhood. Child Development, 85, 808-823. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.12144/full

Martin, D., Hutchison, J., Slessor, G., Urquhart, J., Cunningham, S.J., & Smith, K. (2014). The spontaneous formation of stereotypes via cumulative cultural evolution. Psychological Science, 25, 1777-1786. http://pss.sagepub.com/content/25/9/1777.short

Cunningham, S. J., Vergunst, F., Macrae, C.N., & Turk, D. J. (2013). Exploring early self-referential memory effects through ownership. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 31, 289-301. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjdp.12005/full 

Cunningham, S. J., Brady-Van den Bos, M., Gill, L., & Turk, D. J. (2013). Survival of the selfish: Contrasting self-referential encoding and survival processing. Consciousness and Cognition, 22, 237-244. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810012002395

Turk, D. J. Brady-Van den Bos, M., Collard, P., Gillespie-Smith, K., Conway, M. A., & Cunningham, S. J., (2013). Divided attention selectively impairs memory for self-relevant information. Memory and Cognition, 41, 503-510. http://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13421-012-0279-0

Cunningham, S. J. & Macrae, C. N. (2011). The colour of gender stereotyping. British Journal of Psychology, 102, 598-614. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2044-8295.2011.02023.x/full

Cunningham, S. J., Van den Bos, M., & Turk, D. J. (2011). Exploring the effects of ownership and choice on self-memory biases. Memory, 19, 449-461. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09658211.2011.584388

Smallwood, J., Schooler, J. W., Turk, D. J., Cunningham, S. J., Burns, P., & Macrae, C.N. (2011). Self-reflection and the temporal focus of the wandering mind. Consciousness and Cognition, 20, 1120-1126. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S105381001000276X

Van den Bos, M., Cunningham, S. J., & Turk, D. J. (2010). Mine to remember: The impact of ownership on recollective experience. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 1065-1071. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17470211003770938

Cunningham, S. J. Turk, D. J., Macdonald, L. M. & Macrae, C. N. (2008). Yours or mine? Ownership and memory. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 312-318. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S105381000700030X

Turk, D. J., Cunningham, S. J. & Macrae, C. N. (2008). Self-memory biases in explicit and incidental encoding of trait adjectives. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 1040-1045. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810008000299

Cunningham, S. J. & Macrae, C. N. (2007). Priming. In R. Baumeister & K. Vohs (Eds) Encyclopedia of social psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/encyclopedia-of-social-psychology/book227442

Cunningham, S. J. & Milne, A. B. & Crawford, J. R. (2007). The effects of acute alcohol intoxication on person memory: The stereotypic drunk. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37, 187-199. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0021-9029.2007.00155.x/full

Cunningham, S. J. & Russell, P. (2004). The influence of gender roles on evolved partner preferences. Sexualities, Evolution and Gender, 6, 131-150.http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14616660412331332909

Meet the rest of the team

Ms Noelle McAra

Ms Noelle McAra

Division of Psychology | Lecturer

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Professor Vera Kempe

Professor Vera Kempe

Division of Psychology | Professor of Psychology and Language Learning

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