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Developmental Science


The Developmental Sciences faculty shares a common mission: To understand how learning and development are supported by environmental factors and by basic social and cognitive processes across infancy and childhood. Our faculty brings a variety of perspectives to this common mission, studying environmental factors ranging from opportunities to reach in infancy to opportunities to compare multiple solutions to mathematics problems in early adolescence, and focusing on internal processes ranging from emotional states to understanding of beliefs and desires.  We investigate the role of basic processes in complex actions and reasoning, such as coordinating actions, attention and emotions, comprehending and producing language, understanding symbols and media, and solving math problems. We all utilize experimental methods in order to identify causal factors to evaluate change processes, and we evaluate change both at the behavioral and neural level. This common mission has made it possible for many of our faculty to engage in fruitful collaborations with one another as well as with researchers in other areas and other disciplines. 

An important feature of the program is the flexibility students have to design an individualized program. With program requirements as their foundation, students work closely with their major professor and other faculty members in advanced courses and in developing their research interests, skills, and academic programs. Students also are encouraged to take advantage of all that the university offers by pursuing course work and research projects not only in Psychological Sciences (both the Department of Psychology and Human Development at Peabody and the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Science), but also the Departments of Teaching and Learning and Special Education, and in other schools within the University including the Nursing School, the Medical School, and the School of Engineering and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for the study of developmental disabilities and human development.
Faculty members who serve as primary advisors for Developmental Science PhD students are:
Deon Benton

Amy Booth

James Booth

Elisabeth Dykens

Lisa Fazio

Justine Hoch

Kathryn Humphreys

Jonathan Lane

Amy Needham

Bethany Rittle-Johnson

Megan Saylor

Sophia Vinci-Booher

Eric Wilkey

Cristina Zepeda

View list of Developmental Science Faculty here.

Links to the research labs of faculty in our department are listed in the right margin of this page. In addition, most faculty have a link to their lab website on their individual webpage.


A distinguishing feature of the Developmental Science program is the sense of community that extends to the Psychological Sciences major and the university as a whole. A faculty member's research interests may be shared by someone in another department who looks at the same issue from a different perspective. Research findings are shared, and collaborative projects involving students frequently develop.

For more information, please contact the program director: Amy Needham