Associate Professor of Cognitive Development
Melissa's research interests center on memory development, particularly memory for personal experiences. She has been exploring how parental verbal support may contribute to children's ability to recall the past.
In addition, she is interested in how emotion may affect reports of past experiences and how parents and children talk about these events.
She is currently examining autobiographical memory from a cross-cultural perspective to study how different socialization experiences may relate to the detail included in memory reports.
Memory is not pudding, it is an elephant - while pudding is the same throughout, you cannot generalize across different types of memory. In this course we will discuss the many types of memory we use daily, from remembering the name of a new acquaintance, a favorite concert, or even how to ride a bike. We will explore the constructive nature of memories and how they may change over time as well as how memory capabilities develop over the life course. We will also discuss the neurological underpinnings of memory. However, students do not need to have a background in neuroscience. In addition to reading scholarly research and participating in demonstrations of the various forms of memory and their properties, students will be expected to write a series of brief papers throughout the semester and a larger final research proposal.
In this course students will gain first-hand experience in the process of conducting research in autobiographical memory. Students will be exposed to some of the main issues in autobiographical memory for personal past events throughout the childhood years and into adulthood. We will consider the potential roles of social interaction, self, culture, and emotionality of events as well as developmental changes in autobiographical memory reports. Course requirements will include reading primary research articles, and designing and executing an original research project. This is an intensive course comprising instruction in all areas of the research process, including collection, coding, and analysis of data. Prerequisite: A course in psychology.
The majority of adults are able to read fluently. However, when children learn to read, the process is dependent on a number of skills and requires a great deal of adult guidance. In this course we will discuss the cultural importance of literacy across societies and throughout childhood. We will focus on the development of the complex skill of reading, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and higher-order processes that contribute to decoding and text comprehension. Because instruction can play a determining factor in children's acquisition of literacy skills, we will study early reading materials and examine practices that are employed at home and in the classroom to facilitate the acquisition of these skills. We will also collaborate with a local elementary school to develop resources for families to support language and literacy engagement at home. Evaluation will be based on class participation, a series of short papers, and a longer final project.
How does culture influence child development? How do the values, norms, and expectations of a group shape socialization processes? What is the child's role in contributing to social interactions and how might this vary across cultural and social settings? In this course we will move beyond examining group differences to discussing the implications of cultural practices and values for understanding development. We will explore psychological and anthropological literature to consider different perspectives and methodologies to examine how sociocultural context shapes behaviors and development. We will also consider how views of childhood vary across cultures and are reflected in social interactions and cultural routines and systems. Students will be responsible for facilitating discussions, presenting articles, writing short response papers, and completing an integrative final paper on a topic of their choice. A previous course in psychology or childhood studies is required.