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Early Development Lab
University of Virginia
PO Box 400400
Charlottesville, VA 22904

About this program

This internship experience has been designed to provide exceptional undergraduate students an opportunity to gain experience conducting psychological research in a child development lab. Students do not need to have previous research experience to be competitive applicants; in fact, students from liberal arts colleges and smaller universities are strongly encouraged to apply.

The Early Development Lab is a research lab in the psychology department at the University of Virginia led by Dr. Angeline Lillard, a leading expert in pretend play and theory of mind research. Generally, our research focuses on the cognitive development of children from about 3 to 10 years of age.

The program is open to rising juniors and seniors. Successful applicants typically have at least a 3.3 GPA in psychology, and have completed or are currently taking courses in developmental psychology, statistics, and research methods.

Research topics

Our lab is interested in how children interact with pretend, fantasy, imagination, and media and how this interaction influences their cognitive and social development. Some current projects in the lab are:

  • How children learn from educational apps and touchscreen devices
  • How television viewing impacts executive function, cognitive skills, creativity, and attention
  • How children negotiate the boundary between reality and pretense. For example, does pretending to be an aggressive character lead to increases in aggression once the pretend episode is over?
  • How exposure to prosocial media might make children more empathetic and prosocial individuals

What to expect

The Early Development Lab Summer Internship is built upon a mentorship model, with each intern being paired with one graduate student mentor in the lab. Graduate student mentors and interns will work closely on at least one ongoing study. Moreover, interns will have the opportunity to be involved in several steps of the research process, including study design, participant recruitment, and data analysis. Interns will also attend weekly lab meetings, journal article clubs, and a series of professional development talks, such as navigating the graduate school admission process.