Graduate Training in Developmental Psychology

The Developmental area is one of four total areas of training emphasis in the department, along with Cognition, Neuroscience, and Social Psychology. Our graduate training area in Developmental Psychology is designed to link with our other established areas to prepare well-trained psychologists able to conduct methodologically rigorous and socially meaningful behavioral science in the service of understanding development. We aim to produce graduates with knowledge across the sub-disciplines of psychology and sensitivity to the practical significance and broad impact of developmental research.

Our developmental faculty offer training in behavioral, neural (fMRI, EEG, ERP), eye-tracking, physiological, longitudinal, and computational modeling techniques. Further, Drs. Bonawitz and LoBue manage a mobile child development lab—The Rutgers Newark Mobile Maker Center—that is situated in local museums for both data collection and community outreach. Our developmental faculty are involved in the Institute for Data Science, with access to the NM3 cluster which supports data-intensive computations. In addition to these resources, our developmental faculty are also actively involved with the Center on Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, which serves as a hub for engaged scholarship on issues related to juvenile justice reform, the intersection of youth development and juvenile justice policy and practice, and the prevention of youth violence and delinquency. We are also affiliated with NJ Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers.  

Currently our Developmental area includes:

Dr. Elizabeth Bonawitz, Assistant Professor of Psychology (cognitive development and computational modeling, causal and social inference, conceptual change). Dr. Bonawitz directs the Computational Cognitive Development Lab and has active projects investigating how infants, preschoolers, and adults revise their beliefs about the world. Combining tools from probability theory, machine learning, and AI with empirical studies of children's development, she asks: how do children take noisy, ambiguous data from the environment to form rich, abstract, causal representations of the world? In a recent set of studies, she is exploring how children discover relevant hypotheses (explanations) for novel events, how assumptions about others and the environment change the process of hypothesis discovery, and how this process changes over development.

Dr. Paul Boxer, Professor of Psychology (aggressive/antisocial behavior, developmental psychopathology, prevention/intervention). Dr. Boxer directs the Social Development Research Program and has active projects investigating the impact of violence in the social environment on psychosocial functioning, including a long-term study of children's development in the Middle East and a series of projects examining the impact of prison experiences on readjustment to the community. Boxer also partners with community-based youth service agencies to investigate the effectiveness of interventions for antisocial behavior and delinquency. He co-directs the Center on Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice and serves as the research core director for the NJ Gun Violence Research Center.

Dr. Vanessa LoBue, Associate Professor of Psychology (infancy, emotional development, threat perception). Dr. LoBue directs the Child Study Center and her research program investigates human behavioral responses to emotionally valenced stimuli—specifically to negative or threatening stimuli—and the mechanisms guiding the development of these responses. In one line of research, she found that humans perceive the presence of threatening stimuli very quickly, and that rapid detection begins in infancy. However, these biases can be learned, they can change over the course of development, and may reflect a broad spectrum of individual differences. Further, in a second line of research, she found that avoidance responses to threats do not develop until later in childhood, and are dependent on learning. Her current work builds on these findings to ask whether early perceptual biases for threat contribute to maladaptive avoidance behaviors, such as those associated with the development of fear and anxiety, and how children learn adaptive avoidance responses, such as avoidance of contagious people or contaminated objects.

Dr. Miriam Rosenberg-Lee, Assistant Professor of Psychology (functional neuroimaging of mathematical cognition; cognitive development; learning disabilities; cognition in autism spectrum disorders; learning and reasoning.). Dr. Rosenberg-Lee directs the Mathematics, Reasoning and Learning Lab and has active projects investigating how children, adolescents and adults learn mathematical information. Combining functional neuroimaging with outside the scanner learning programs, she asks: what brain activity patterns do proficient learners display? How are these patterns different in children with mathematical learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders? What types of learning programs are most effective in different  populations of learners?

Dr. Gretchen Van de Walle, Associate Professor of Psychology (conceptual development, language acquisition, bilingualism). Dr. Van de Walle directs the Infant Cognition Center and has active projects investigating language acquisition in young monolingual and bilingual children, as well as language processing in bilingual adults. She is also investigating infants' understanding of the distinction between animate agents and inanimate objects. In collaboration with a graduate student, she has recently launched a series of studies investigating the role of parent-child interaction in early conceptual development.