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

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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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

Graduate Student Collaborators

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 the effect of children's perceptions of gender stereotypes on their career aspirations.

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 working with Shannon to investigate 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 with Eileen to investigate child outcomes in Montessori education.

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.

Eileen Hernon

Eileen is a third year undergraduate student from New Hartford, NY, majoring in Psychology (BA) and Elementary Education (MT). In the lab, she is working with Henry to investigate child outcomes in 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 working with Ashley to investigate how children learn from interactive media devices compared to more traditional learning materials.

Living Laboratory Volunteers

Carolina Cordova

Carolina is a third year undergraduate student from Quito, Ecuador, majoring in Psychology. She volunteers at the Virginia Discovery Museum as part of Living Laboratory, running research-based activities with families to share exciting findings in Developmental Psychology.

Lab Alumni

Meet our Lab Alumni