Current External Collaborators

Soul Machines Company


Many Babies 4 and the Many Babies Consortium


Professor Ted Ruffman (School of Psychology, University of Otago)
Professor Ted Ruffman examines social understanding in infants, children and in young and older adults. He has explored whether human infants understand mental states such as desires and beliefs, whether children can recognise emotional expressions as well as young adults. He has studied whether emotion recognition, understanding of social gaffes, and the ability to detect a lie deteriorate in older adulthood. Recently, he has also begun to examine dogs’ social understanding, for instance, whether dogs understand human emotional expressions such as sadness, anger and fear.


Associate Professor Mele Taumoepeau (School of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington)

Mele’s research is primarily concerned with the impact our cultural environments have on young children’s socio-emotional development. Most of her work in child development has focused on the basic question of how children learn that a person’s behaviour is motivated by what goes on in their minds.


Shoji Itakura (Kytoto Uni, Japan)

Professor Shoji Itakura’s research looks at what children understand and how they think about robots. Along with Dr Annette Henderson and past ELLA PhD student Dr Ying Wang, Shoji has been investigating whether children view inanimate robots as cooperative partners. In addition to this, Shoji and Ying are also running a study looking at  how children understand fairness and resource distribution.


Sheila Krogh-Jespersen (DePaul Uni, Chicago)

Assistant Professor Sheila Krogh-Jesperson’s research looks at social cognition in infants and children. She is specifically interested in how children learn that objects move and actions occur in predictable ways and how infant’s come to understand others’ intentions. Along with ELLA researchers, she is studying how children learn to shift their gaze in anticipation of events occurring.


Current Internal Collaborators

Mark Sagar (Uni of Auckland)

Associate Professor Mark Sagar is the director of the Laboratory for Animate Technologies based at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute. In his research he is creating interactive autonomously animated systems which will help define the next generation of human-computer interaction and facial animation. Along with ELLA researchers Dr Annette Henderson, Dr Siobhan Kennedy-Costantini and Cindy Chong, Mark is working to create a virtual baby known as BabyX. Find out more about BabyX.


Image result for quentin atkinsonQuentin Atkinson (Uni of Auckland)

UoA Associate Professor Quentin Atikinson’s research focuses on the evolution of culture, language and religion. Quentin, along with ELLA researcher Dr Henry Dixson, is investigating how prosocial environmental beliefs and behaviours vary across social groups. Whether we choose to cooperate is not coded in our genes, but is shaped by the behaviour, norms and culture of those around us. Their research evaluates the similarities and differences in how children in Vanuatu and New Zealand partake in cooperation.


Nickola Overall (Uni of Auckland)

UoA Associate Professor Nickola Overall’s research examines how emotional, attachment and relationship difficulties can be overcome to build healthy relationships. Nickola, along with ELLA researcher Rachel Low, is investigating how families can effectively support each other and resolve disputes to enhance family relationships. Rachel and Nickola’s research is especially focused on how families, and children can learn to manage and regulate their emotions during and after frustrating events.