Elizabeth A. SimpsonDr. Elizabeth Simpson

Assistant Professor of Psychology, Child Division (2015)

University of Georgia, 2011


Job Openings

Graduate Research Assistant Position
The Social Cognition Lab in the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami invites applicants interested in a Graduate Research Assistant position. For more information, please refer to the Department of Psychology's admissions page.
Undergraduate Research Assistant Position
The Social Cognition Lab in the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami invites applicants interested in undergraduate research. Students can read about opportunities here (click on “Research Opportunities”) and fill out the online application.

Research Interests

My work focuses on understanding social cognitive development, including the ultimate and proximate mechanisms that shape individual differences in social perception. I currently have two programmatic lines of behavioral research, both with human and macaque infants. One research line examines the perception of social stimuli, such as faces, and the other examines action understanding.

Current Research

The Evolutionary Importance of Social Stimuli
Perceptual systems may have evolved sensitivities for animate items in the environment, including own-species faces, voices, and motion, which, compared to cues from other animals’, are privileged in being processed (e.g., being detected, capturing and holding attention, and being remembered). I am examining whether biases in attention to faces and other evolutionarily relevant stimuli, may be present in human and macaque infants, including newborns. One way we test this is through presenting infants with arrays of images—such as pictures of various objects and faces—and, using remote eye tracking technology, assessing which items capture and hold infants’ attention.
Individual Differences in Social Cognitive Skills
Newborn human and monkey infants are capable of imitation—imitating a model’s facial gestures—and imitation recognition—recognizing when someone is imitating you. Some infants are more skilled than others in these tasks. We are testing the prediction that these early individual differences may predict later developmental outcomes, including social skills, such as the ability to follow someone’s gaze, and social interest.
Influence of Early Experiences on Social Cognitive Skills
One of my goals is to devise interventions to improve developmental outcomes. I am experimentally testing the effectiveness of behavioral interventions in the newborn period, providing nursery-reared macaque monkey infants with face-to-face communicative experiences and tactile stimulation, to assess whether and in what ways these interventions may support development.
Exogenous and Endogenous Oxytocin
Oxytocin, a neuropeptide that promotes social behaviors, plays a pivotal role in mother-infant bonding; however, little is known about its effects on infants. I am examining the influence of nebulized oxytocin on macaque infants’ social interest and skills. Salivary oxytocin is also being explored as a potentially meaningful measure of individual differences in physiological reactivity to social interactions.

Selected Publications (*student author, #contributed equally)

For an updated list of publications, please see Dr. Simpson's Google Scholar.

#Simpson, E. A., *#Maloney, G., Ferrari, P. F., Suomi, S. J., & Paukner, A. (in press). Neonatal imitation and early social experience predict gaze following abilities in infant macaques. Scientific Reports

#Simpson, E. A., *Nicolini, Y., Shetler, M., Suomi, S. J., Ferrari, P. F., & #Paukner, A. (in press). Experience-independent sex differences in newborn macaques: Females are more social than males. Scientific Reports.

Simpson, E. A., Jakobsen, K. V., *Damon, F., Suomi, S. J., Ferrari, P. F., & Paukner, A. (in press). Face detection and the development of own-species bias in infant macaques. Child Development.

Simpson, E. A., Suomi, S. J., & Paukner, A. (in press). Evolutionary relevance and experience contribute to face discrimination in infant macaques (Macaca mulatta). Journal of Cognition and Development. Advance Online Publication. doi: 10.1080/15248372.2015.1048863

Gerson, S., Simpson, E. A., & Paukner, A. (2016). Drivers of social cognitive development in human and non-human primate infants. In J. Sommerville, & J. Decety (Eds.), Frontiers in Developmental Science Series: Social Cognition. Psychology Press, Taylor and Francis Group.

Amlung, M., Simpson, E. A., Dengler, M., Stone, B., *Williams, G., & Domizi, D. B., (2016). With a little help from my friends: The role of peer mentoring in graduate student teaching assistant development. In G. Wright (Ed.), The Mentoring Continuum: From Graduate School through Tenure. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. pp. 3-22.

Jakobsen, K. V., *Umstead, L., & Simpson, E. A. (2015). Efficient human face detection in infancy. Developmental Psychobiology, 58(1), 129-136.

Cannon, E. N., Simpson, E. A., Fox, N. A., Vanderwert, R. E., Woodward, A. L., & Ferrari, P. F. (2015). Relations between infants’ emerging reach-grasp competence and event-related desynchronization in EEG. Developmental Science, 19(1), 50-62.

Vanderwert, R. E., Simpson, E. A., Paukner, A., Suomi, S. J., Fox, N. A., & Ferrari, P. F. (2015). Early social experience affects neural activity to affiliative facial gestures in newborn nonhuman primates. Developmental Neuroscience, 37(3), 243-252.

Sclafani, V., Simpson, E. A., Suomi, S. J., & Ferrari, P. F. (2015). Development of space perception in relation to the maturation of the motor system in infant rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Neuropsychologia, 70, 429-441.

Simpson, E. A., Paukner, A., Suomi, S. J., & Ferrari, P. F. (2015). Neonatal imitation and its sensorimotor mechanism. In P.F. Ferrari & G. Rizzolatti (Eds.), New Frontiers in Mirror Neuron Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 296-314.

Simpson, E. A., *Mertins, H. L., *Yee, K., *Fullerton, A., & Jakobsen, K.V. (2014). Visual search efficiency is greater for human faces compared to animal faces. Experimental Psychology, 61(6), 439-456.

Christov-Moore, L., Simpson, E. A., Grigaityte, K., Coude, G., Iacoboni, M., & Ferrari, P. F. (2014). Empathy: Gender effects in brain and behavior. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 46(4), 604-627.

Simpson, E. A., *Buchin, Z., *Werner, K., *Worrell, R., & Jakobsen, K. V. (2014). Finding faces among faces: Human faces are located more quickly and accurately than other primate and mammal faces. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 76(8), 2175-2183.

Paukner, A., Simpson, E. A., Ferrari, P. F., Mrozek, T., & Suomi, S. J. (2014). Neonatal imitation predicts how infants engage with faces. Developmental Science, 17(6), 833-840.

Simpson, E. A., Sclafani, V., Paukner, A., Hamel, A., Novak, M. A., Meyer, J. S., Suomi, S. J., & Ferrari, P. F. (2014). Inhaled oxytocin increases positive social behaviors in newborn macaques. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(19), 6922-6927.

Simpson, E. A., Jakobsen, K. V., Fragaszy, D. M., Okada, K., & Frick, J. E. (2014). The development of facial identity discrimination through learned attention. Developmental Psychobiology, 56(5), 1083-1101.

Simpson, E. A., Fox, N. A., Tramacere, A., & Ferrari, P. F. (2014). Neonatal imitation and an epigenetic account of mirror neuron development. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 37(2), 220.

Simpson, E. A., Murray, L., Paukner, A., & Ferrari, P. F. (2014). The mirror neuron system as revealed through neonatal imitation: Presence from birth, predictive power, and evidence of plasticity. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 369(1644), 1-12.

Simpson, E. A., Paukner, A., Sclafani, V., Suomi, S. J., & Ferrari, P. F. (2013). Lipsmacking imitation skill in newborn macaques is predictive of social partner discrimination. PLOS ONE, 8(12), 1-6.

Simpson, E. A., Paukner, A., Suomi, S. J., & Ferrari, P. F. (2013). Visual attention during neonatal imitation in newborn macaque monkeys. Developmental Psychobiology, 56(4), 864–870.

Ferrari, P. F., Tramacere, A., Simpson, E. A. & Iriki, A. (2013). Mirror neurons through the lens of epigenetics. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17(9), 450-457.

Simpson, E. A., & Ferrari, P. F. (2013). Mirror neurons are central for a second-person neuroscience: Insights from developmental studies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(4), 438.

Paukner, A., *Bower, S., Simpson, E. A., & Suomi, S. J. (2013). Sensitivity to first-order relations of facial elements in infant rhesus macaques. Infant and Child Development, 22(3), 320-330.

Jakobsen, K. V., Frick, J. E., & Simpson, E. A. (2013). Look here!  The development of attentional orienting to symbolic cues. Journal of Cognition and Development, 14(2), 229-249.


PSY 622 Cognitive Development (Graduate-Level)

PSY 230 Child and Adolescent Development (Undergraduate-Level)