Lab Director

Dr. Angeline Lillard

Dr. Lillard is a Professor of Psychology and Developmental Area Head at the University of Virginia. She obtained her BA in English Literature from Smith College and her PhD in Psychology from Stanford University. Her primary research interests include pretend play and Montessori education, and her book, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius received the Cognitive Development Society Book Award in 2006. Dr. Lillard is also interested in the development of theory of mind, children's executive function, children and media, neuroplasticity, contemplative practices, and culture and development.

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Dr. Lillard's website

Lab Coordinator

MJ Heise

MJ is the EDL's Lab Coordinator. She grew up in New Jersey and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BS in Child Psychology in 2013. Following college, she worked for two years as a Faculty Research Assistant in the Child Development Lab at the University of Maryland. She is interested in how best to develop learning environments for children based on children's natural curiosity and behavior. Her other research interests include theory of mind, executive function, and pretend play.

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Graduate Students

Sierra Eisen

Sierra is a third year graduate student, originally from Pinole, CA. She received her BA in Psychology with Honors from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013. Her current research focuses on how children think about and learn from interactive technologies, particularly educational apps. She is also interested in how children learn from stories and how fiction can advance children's moral development.

E-mail Sierra
Personal Website

Jessica Taggart

Jess is a third year graduate student, originally from Norwalk, CT. She received her BA in Psychology and English from Johns Hopkins University in 2012. She is broadly interested in our engagement with fictional worlds. In one line of work, her research explores parents' and children's ability to entertain themselves using only their thoughts and imagination. Her other line of work explores whether exposure to prosocial fictional media can subsequently make us more empathetic and prosocial individuals.

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Graduate Student Collaborators

Helet Botha

Helet is a third year graduate student specializing in Ethics at the Darden School of Business at UVA. She's from a small town in central South Africa you have never heard of! Helet completed a BA in Economics and Organizational Decision-Making; as well as an MPhil in Organizational Behavior at the University of Stellenbosch. The boundary between pretend play and reality is one of her two main areas of interest. She is curious about whether pretend play shares cognitive or other psychological underpinnings with entrepreneurial behaviour. Currently, she is looking at whether children perform better at cognitive tasks when these tasks are part of a pretend game than when they are not. (Helet's main second area of interest pertains to how children and adults learn from moral failure.)

E-mail Helet

Marissa Drell

Marissa is a fourth year graduate student, originally from Watchung, NJ. She received her undergraduate degree in American Culture with foci in Developmental Psychology and Women's Studies from Vassar College in 2008 and her MA in Psychology from Brandeis University in 2010. Marissa works primarily in the Child Language Learning Lab with Vikram Jaswal. Her work in the Early Development Lab focuses on the effects of media on social and cognitive development.

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Distinguished Majors Program

Sky Cardwell

Sky is a fourth year undergraduate student from Little Rock, AR, majoring in Psychology. In the lab, she has investigated how children are affected by their identification with fictional characters and how they may adopt the relevant traits of these characters. For her honors thesis, she is interested in the relationship between pretend play and emotion regulation.

Caroline Chamberlain

Caroline is a fourth year undergraduate student from Alexandria, VA, double majoring in Psychology and French. In the lab, she has investigated how children are affected by their identification with fictional characters. For her honors thesis, she is interested in how children's prosocial behavior is affected by prosocial media.

Julia Rauen

Julia is a fourth year undergraduate student from Alexandria, VA, majoring in Psychology. In the lab, she has investigated how the perspective from which a story is told might influence prosocial behavior in children. For her honors thesis, she is interested in children's preferences for pretend and real activities and roles.

Research Assistants

Hala Al Kallas

Hala is a third year undergraduate student from McLean, VA, majoring in Cognitive Science (Pre-med Track). In the lab, she is investigating how different perspectives in telling a story might influence prosocial behavior in children.

Henry Buyas

Henry is a third year undergraduate student from Mechanicsville, VA, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Economics. In the lab, he is working on a replication study of Bandura's Bobo doll experiment to investigate the conditions under which children imitate models.

Meghan Ellwood

Meghan is a third year undergraduate student from Mechanicsville, VA, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Biology. In the lab, she is working with Kiara to investigate how different forms of media affect children's prosocial behavior.

Matt Shumway

Matt is a third year undergraduate student from Great Falls, VA majoring in Psychology and Biology. In the lab, he is studying how children's pretend play may help regulate their emotions and Montessori education.

Kiara Lemon

Kiara is a third year undergraduate student from West Orange, NJ, majoring in Psychology. In the lab, she is working with Meghan to investigate how different forms of media affect children's prosocial behavior.

Emily Wright

Emily is a fourth year undergraduate student from Charleston, WV, majoring in Psychology (BA) and Elementary Education (MT). In the lab, she is investigating how children learn from interactive media devices compared to more traditional learning materials.