Human Development Faculty Research

Amy Bellmore, Professor

My primary research interest is how school-based peer relationships influence development during adolescence. My research program focuses on two main topics in particular:

  • The processes and mechanisms through which social risk factors, such as being the victim or perpetrator of peer-directed aggression, impact academic and psychosocial adjustment.
  • The significance of ethnicity and ethnic contexts for students’ intra- and inter-group relations.

My interest in these phenomena stems from my larger goal of obtaining knowledge about adolescent development within the context of school settings that can be translated into practice by stakeholders in the communities in which I conduct my research, and with professionals and policymakers in the broader education community.

Visit Dr. Bellmore’s research lab: PRESM Lab: Peer Relationships, Ethnicity, Schools, and Media Lab

B. Bradford Brown, Professor

In working with teenagers in the community, I have been constantly struck by the contrast between adults’ wariness of adolescent peer relations and the value that young people themselves accord to peers. My research reflects this contrast in its focus on some of the more controversial features of adolescents’ social worlds. I am interested in both the structure and process of peer relations. Thus, I examine the organization of peer groups, processes of peer influence, family-peer linkages that contribute to adolescent autonomy development, and transformations in peer relationships precipitated by new communication technologies.

In our research lab we examine a variety of topics related to these issues. Current work involves ethnic and cultural influences on parental oversight of adolescent peer relations, peer influences on teen driving behavior, college students’ use of electronic communication technology (from Facebook to Skype) to manage peer affiliations, and efforts to build positive peer environments for youth in after-school settings. This work illustrates the many ways in which peers contribute to teenagers’ academic and social adjustment.

Visit Dr. Brown’s research lab: Peer Relations Study Group

Robert Enright, Professor

My research interests center on moral development, particularly the development of forgiveness. There are three primary research projects concerning forgiveness on which students and I are working. One is a process model that postulates a series of steps involved in one person forgiving another. My students and I are currently developing a series of interventions on forgiveness aimed at youth and adults who have suffered from various kinds of interpersonal injustice. The second project is the development of a scale, published by Mind Garden, to measure forgiveness. We have examined the validity of this scale in six different cultures to date. The third area of research centers on the development of forgiveness education materials for children in violent and impoverished environments. We have tested the effectiveness of the forgiveness education approach in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for example.

Edward Hubbard, Associate Professor

My research examines the neural underpinnings of cognitive processes that are relevant for education, and the role of educational experiences and enculturation in creating the neural circuits that underlie human specific abilities. To do this, I combine the latest technological advances in understanding the human brain as a “learning organ” with insights from cognitive psychology and education. To do so, I carry out behavioral and brain imaging studies in school-aged children and college students to identify the brain systems involved in basic learning related process, and to assess how individual differences in brain systems relate to individual differences in behavior and educational outcomes. My work examines these questions in three key domains:

1) the acquisition of mathematics in typical and atypically developing populations
2) the role of multi-sensory integration in learning and
3) the role of learning in synesthesia, and the consequences of synesthesia for education

Visit Dr. Hubbard’s research lab: Educational Neuroscience Lab

Percival Matthews, Associate Professor, Interim Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

My research program is organized around two primary goals:
1) investigating the basic underpinnings of human mathematical cognition, and
2) finding ways to leverage this understanding to create effective pedagogical techniques that can be used to impact the life chances of everyday people.

In my work, I attempt to integrate insights and methods from psychology with those from math education research to capitalize on the strengths of each. I look forward to expanding my work in the near future to investigating ways to support broader engagement among classroom teachers and researchers to help bridge the research-practice divide.

Visit Dr. Matthews’ research lab: Math, Education, Learning and Development (MELD) Lab

Sarah Short, Assistant Professor

The overarching mission of my research is to relieve suffering and promote resilience in typically developing and at-risk children. Inspired by a long-standing interest in the prevention of neurodevelopmental disorders and psychiatric illness, I have conducted multidisciplinary research that unites the fields of psychology, biology, human development, and neuroscience. The ultimate goal of this effort is to create targeted cognitive and behavioral interventions that leverage the inherent plasticity of the developing brain to promote resilience and well-being.

My current research focuses on the impact of poverty on early child brain development. This study examines the link between poverty, brain development, and cognitive processes that facilitate learning, self-monitoring and decision-making in children. Other recent research projects have included an investigation of neural plasticity associated with cognitive training in young children and the development of a Parent-Child Mindfulness Based Training program.

Visit Dr. Short’s research lab: Brain and Early Experience Lab

Haley Vlach, Associate Professor, Human Development Area Chair

My research examines the mechanisms underlying children’s learning in order to:
1) understand cognition and how cognition develops, and
2) build an empirical base for the design of successful educational and health interventions.

My work spans the following cognitive and developmental processes: memory, memory development, word and category learning, concept learning, conceptual development, inductive learning, and generalization/transfer of learning. A central focus is connecting more traditional psychological research to applied settings, such as the design of cognitive interventions and concept learning in the classroom.

Visit Dr. Vlach’s research lab: Learning, Cognition, and Development Lab