Human Development


Valerie graduated from William & Mary in 2019 with a B.S. in Psychology and a Minor in Linguistics and is currently a second-year PhD student in Dr. Marianella Casasola's Play and Learning Lab. She is broadly interested in the role of experience in children’s development of complex cognitive and perceptual skills, as well as in the interplay of various domains of development throughout childhood. Her work with Dr. Casasola centers on how infants' acquisition of mental rotation, a fundamental spatial skill, is influenced by non-spatial factors such as visual short-term memory, visual processing biases, and motor development. Recently, Valerie has also begun work on a multi-session training study examining how spatial language cues and hands-on motor experience may promote spatial and STEM skill learning in preschoolers.

Of particular importance to Valerie is working on research with direct and relevant applications outside of the lab that can lead to meaningful interventions that are easily applied in schools and other community settings to enhance children’s cognitive development. To this end, her research focuses on finding ways to build upon elements of children’s daily experience that they already partake in and enjoy, such as play, in order to facilitate the acquisition of various spatial and linguistic skills. Her work addresses three main questions:

(1) What aspects of play are helpful to children in developing foundational cognitive skills?

(2) How can play be manipulated to capitalize upon these aspects?

(3) What sorts of cross-domain transfer can occur between specific types of play and specific types of cognitive skills—for instance, can play that focuses on motor skills help children perform better on tasks related to spatial reasoning?

B.S. 2019 -- William & Mary -- Psychology with Linguistics Minor

Summa cum laude with departmental honors; Phi Beta Kappa

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