Professor Merideth Gattis - PhD California, Los Angeles


Research group:
Developmental & health psychology
Social & environmental psychology
029 208 70034
Tower Building, Park Place

Research summary

My research interests are in cognition and development, and my research is conducted with infants, children, and adults. My research with Development@Cardiff seeks to move our understanding of cognition beyond the nature/nurture divide, asking detailed questions about how nature and nurture interact to produce thinking and reasoning. To answer these questions, we compare human behaviour across different environmental factors. Those environmental factors include parenting practices as well as the broader influence of culture and language.

Teaching summary

I teach across all levels of the undergraduate curriculum.  At Level 1, I lecture on what counts as scientific evidence, and I conduct academic tutorials aimed at developing critical thinking and analytic skills.  At Level 2, I lecture on cognitive development in PS2011 Developmental Psychology. My lecture topics include infant perception, attention, and social cognition. I also conduct academic tutorials, and a practical in developmental research. I supervise research projects and research internships on cognition and development.

Selected publications (2014 onwards)


Full list of publications


Research topics and related papers

I study social cognition, including imitation, joint attention, and early communication. I am interested in the development of attention regulation, and how it influences social cognition. I am currently conducting two longitudinal studies of social cognition, First Steps and Special Delivery. More information is available on my research group web pages.

I also study spatial cognition, especially as it relates to abstract thinking and reasoning. Studies of perceptual reasoning in Chinese- and English-speaking populations are giving us new insights into how dimensional concepts such as size, loudness, and hue are represented in the human mind.


2012: ESRC. £99,805 for 2 years. Cultural & individual influences on parenting during infancy.

2010: Waterloo Foundation. PhD Studentship. Development following preterm birth.

2010: Nuffield. £14,400 for 3 months. Gaze following and emotion processing in human infants.

2008: Waterloo Foundation. £12,000 for 1 year. Development@Cardiff participant programme.

2008: ESRC. Competition studentship award. The role of joint attention in social cognition and language development.

2008: Wellcome/NIH. £70,000 for 4 years. Mother-child interaction and the development of imitation in preterm infants.

2008: Leverhulme. £252,343 for 3 years. Infant imitation in natural contexts.

2007: Nuffield. £1,400 for 3 months. Developing a corpus of social learning in human infants.

2006: Royal Society. £12,000 for 3 years. A comparison of linguistic polarity in Mandarin Chinese and English.

2006:  Wellcome Trust. £1,020 for 3 months. Infant ability to detect intention through acoustic cues.

2005: Nuffield. £1,400 for 3 months. Infant imitation and attention.

2005: ESRC. £42,000 for 1 year. Early imitation and disengagement.

2001: ESRC. £37,000 for 18 months. Early imitation and gaze following.

2000: Nuffield Foundation. £99,730 for three years. Social cognition in deaf and hearing children. PI Stephen Want.

2000: British Council. £5,200 for two years. Goal-directed imitation.

I have also received various travel awards from the British Academy, Cardiff University, and the Royal Society.

Research group


Research collaborators

Terry Kit-fong Au
Marc Bornstein
Ulrike Hahn

Postgraduate research interests

I supervise postgraduate research on cognition and development, and that research can be conducted with infants, children, or adults. I am interested in how social and spatial cognition are related to the development of thinking and reasoning. I am particularly interested in interactions between culture and cognition.

Current studies of social cognition in my laboratory focus on infants. We are conducting experimental studies of attention regulation, imitation and mimicry, intention understanding, and the role of intonation and other acoustic features of speech in mental state understanding. In addition to cross-sectional studies of cognitive development we are currently conducting two longitudinal studies of cognitive and communicative development, one with typically-developing infants only, and one that compares infants born preterm with infants born full term. Both of these longitudinal studies begin from birth and follow development across infancy and early childhood.

Current studies of perceptual reasoning in my laboratory focus on adults. We are conducting experimental studies of perceptual discrimination and organization in different language cultures, to better understand how the interaction between perception and language influences perceptual reasoning.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application here.

Current students

Katherine Ellis-Davies. Katherine studies the development of attentional control; mother-infant interaction; communicative and cognitive development

Katherine Scott. Katherine studies the development of communication and cognition.

Rebecca Sperotto. Rebecca’s research focuses on the social, cognitive and brain development of preterm infants.

Alice Winstanley. Alice's research focuses on the social and cognitive development of preterm infants.

Previous students

Nia Fowler (Dept of Psychological Medicine and Neurology, Cardiff)

Elma Hilbrink (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)

Elena Hoicka (Psychology, University of Stirling)

Sarah May (Waterloo Foundation)

Harriet Over (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

Oliver Perra (Institute of Child Care Research, Queen’s University Belfast)

Elena Sakkalou (Institute for Child Health, University College London)

Undergraduate education

B.A. (1985): Gordon College, Massachusetts; Psychology (Magna cum Laude; Honours Scholar Fellowship).

Postgraduate education

Ph.D. (1995): supported by NSF; supervised by Professor Keith Holyoak; University of California, Los Angeles; Psychology; dissertation title: “From Implicit Learning of Visual Patterns to Explicit Knowledge of a Dynamic System”.

Awards/external committees

Grant reviewing: ESRC, European Commission, National Science Foundation (USA),

Editorial Board, Psychological Science

Reviewer for Academic Presses: IOS Press, MIT Press, Oxford University Press.

Reviewer for journals: Applied Cognitive Psychology, British Journal of Social Psychology, Cognition, Cognitive Development, Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Science, Developmental Psychology, Developmental Science, Infancy, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Thinking and Reasoning.

Visiting Scientist, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 2005; Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, 2005-2006.


Ocober 2014: promoted to Professor, Cardiff University, UK.

Ocober 2011: Reader, Cardiff University, UK.

2007-2011: Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University

2002-2007: Lecturer, Cardiff University

1998-2002: Lecturer, Sheffield University

1995-1998: Max Planck Institute Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research, Munich, Germany