Dr Annette Margaret Elizabeth Henderson

PhD (Queen's University, Canada)

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Senior Lecturer


I joined the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland in August 2009. Before moving to New Zealand I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Maryland working with Professor Amanda Woodward. It was during this time that I learned about the methods used to study infant social cognition and my passion for investigating how infants come to understand their social worlds was ignited. I had already realized that children 2- to 4-years-old know quite a bit about their social world (thanks to my MSc with Professor Susan Graham and PhD with Professor Mark Sabbagh). However, it really is amazing how much babies know too! I have established the first experimental developmental psychology research centre in Auckland - the Early Learning Lab at the University of Auckland (ELLA) - where I have been able to continue the research that I love in a great school and beautiful country!

Research | Current

My research spans several topics relating to social, cognitive and language development in early childhood (0-4 years). Current research projects examine how and what children learn from their social world with a particular focus on the development of socio-cultural competence in early childhood. To become socio-culturally competent children need to learn how to act and communicate with others in a way that is appropriate within the context in which they are living. In human societies this typically involves learning how to coordinate ones actions with others in non-linguistic and linguistic collaborative activities. One goal of my research programme is to identify the factors that will promote the development of children’s socio-cultural competence thereby enhancing children’s chances of having the best start to life in their social world.

Here are a few of the questions that my research team is currently exploring:

  1. What do infants understand about collaboration?
  2. How does early experience shape infants’ ability to collaborate with others?
  3. When do infants understand that linguistic symbols (i.e., words), and other social conventions, are shared by individuals within the same social group?
  4. How does an understanding of the shared nature of linguistic and social conventions influence knowledge acquisition?
  5. What role does experience play in the development of children’s understanding of the shared nature of linguistic and social conventions?
  6. What role can new technologies play in fostering the development of children’s socio-cultural competence?

To investigate these questions I recruit a diverse set of methodological tools (e.g., Behavioural Tasks, Naturalistic Observation, Visual Habituation, Imitation, Eye-Tracking).

I am also a Psychosocial and Cognitive Development domain advisor for the Growing Up in NZ study. Learn more about this project at www.growingup.org.nz.



Director, Early Learning Laboratory

Masters Advisor, School of Psychology

Areas of expertise

Socio-cognitive and language development in early childhood (0-5 years of age). 

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Henderson, A. M. E., Graham, S. A., & Schell, V. (2015). 24-Month-Olds' Selective Learning Is Not an All-or-None Phenomenon. PloS one, 10 (6)10.1371/journal.pone.0131215
  • Henderson, A. M. E., & Scott, J. C. (2015). She called that thing a mido, but should you call it a mido too? Linguistic experience influences infants' expectations of conventionality. Frontiers in psychology, 610.3389/fpsyg.2015.00332
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/26096
  • Howard, L. H., Henderson, A. M. E., Carrazza, C., & Woodward, A. L. (2015). Infants' and young children's imitation of linguistic in-group and out-group informants. Child development, 86 (1), 259-275. 10.1111/cdev.12299
  • Hoda, R., Henderson, A., Lee, S., Beh, B., & Greenwood, J. (2014). Aligning technological and pedagogical considerations: Harnessing touch-technology to enhance opportunities for collaborative gameplay and reciprocal teaching in NZ early education. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction, 2 (1), 48-59. 10.1016/j.ijcci.2014.06.001
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/23682
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rashina Hoda
  • Scott, J. C., & Henderson, A. M. E. (2013). Language Matters: Thirteen-Month-Olds Understand That the Language a Speaker Uses Constrains Conventionality. Developmental Psychology, 49 (11), 2102-2111. 10.1037/a0031981
  • Novack, M. A., Henderson, A. M., & Woodward, A. L. (2013). Twelve-Month-old Infants Generalize Novel Signed Labels, But Not Preferences across Individuals. Journal of Cognition and Development10.1080/15248372.2013.782460
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/21219
  • Henderson, A. M. E., Sabbagh, M. A., & Woodward, A. L. (2013). Preschoolers' selective learning is guided by the principle of relevance. Cognition, 126 (2), 246-257. 10.1016/j.cognition.2012.10.006
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/21217
  • Sabbagh, M. A., & Henderson, A. M. E. (2013). Preschoolers are selective word learners. In M. R. Banaji, S. A. Gelman (Eds.) Navigating the social world: What infants, children, and other species can teach us. New York: Oxford University Press.


Contact details

Primary location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 2, Room 225
New Zealand

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