Dr Emma Blakey

Department of Psychology

Senior Lecturer

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Full contact details

Dr Emma Blakey
Department of Psychology
Cathedral Court
1 Vicar Lane
S1 2LT

I am a developmental psychologist and I’m part of the Sheffield Cognitive Development Research Group. My research focuses on how children develop high-level cognitive skills known as executive functions, why we see differences in those skills, and how their development can be best supported.

I studied at the University of Sheffield for my degree, Masters and PhD and returned as a lecturer in 2017. In between then, I was awarded an ESRC overseas research award and spent several months working in Dr Sandra Wiebe’s lab at the University of Alberta running EEG studies to understand the neural correlates of executive function in toddlers. I was then a post-doctoral researcher at Cardiff University, where I worked on an inter-disciplinary project looking at how causal beliefs can shape children’s time perception and whether this changes developmentally.

I love that my job allows me to learn and teach about children’s development, and more recently understand the ways we might best support development and reduce the impact of social inequality on children’s outcomes. I am also passionate about widening participation and enjoy engaging in opportunities to talk about my work with the public. I also enjoy getting students involved in research and have had many students work with me on summer research placements.

  • PhD Developmental Psychology (University of Sheffield)
  • MSc Psychological Research (University of Sheffield)
  • BA Philosophy and Psychology (University of Sheffield)
Research interests

I’m interested in the development of children’s executive functions (attention, memory, and the ability to regulate behaviour). In particular, I’m interested in how these develop in toddlers and preschoolers, why we see individual differences in these skills and how their development can be best supported. My research also examines how executive functions might relate to school readiness and why these abilities may vary according to children’s socio-economic background.

I am currently leading a longitudinal study 'The Sheffield Early Years Study' to examine how inequalities in cognitive development can emerge and how parents, parent-child interactions and language work together to support early cognitive development. For more information, please see our project website here.

I am currently working with colleagues at the University of Oxford and Ulster University to design and evaluate interventions to support early cognitive skills and numeracy skills by supporting learning activities in nursery that embed executive functions into learning activities (funded by the Education Endowment Foundation) and how we can support parents to nurture numeracy skills in the home (funded by the Nuffield Foundation).

I'm also currently leading a research project with Dr Fiona Scott and Dr Michelle McGillion where we aim to understand the unique experiences new parents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have shared some stories on our website already and are currently working with the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) to ensure this work has impact. Please see our  study website.

I am part of the Sheffield Cognitive Development Group where we run child development studies with local schools and families. If you would like to take part in our studies with your child, or if you want to find out more about our lab group, please see the Sheffield Cognitive Development Research Group page.


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Journal articles


All publications

Journal articles



Research group

I am part of the Sheffield Cognitive Development research group

Current PhD students

Christ Billy Aryanto: The role of musical use on individual differences in executive functions. I am Billy’s second supervisor; he is first supervised by Claudia von Bastian.

Elif Kaplan: The Development of Early Cognitive Flexibility: A Longitudinal Study. 

Former PhD students

  • Ella James-Brabham: Understanding how we can close the achievement gap: The role of SES and cognitive factors on early mathematical skills. Funded by an ESRC studentship award co-supervised by Dan Carroll and Paul Wakeling (University of York).

  • Yesim Yavaslar: The development of cognitive flexibility in early childhood. Funded by the Turkish Government co-supervised by Dan Carroll.

  • Aleksandra Laketa (International Faculty, City College, Thessaloniki): The role of acculturation and motivation in testing the bilingualism cognitive advantage. Funded by a SEERC fee scholarship and co-supervised by Ana Vivas (SEERC) and Elisavet Chrysochoou (Aristotle University).

  • Arvesa Studenica (International Faculty, City College, Thessaloniki): Mechanisms underpinning the so-called bilingual cognitive advantage. Funded by a SEERC fee scholarship and co-supervised by Ana Vivas (SEERC) and Elisavet Chrysochoou (Aristotle University).

  • Educational Endowment Foundation (2023-2025) Trialling the ONE Intervention to Reduce Socioeconomic Disadvantage in Early Maths (£995,127). With Gaia Scerif (PI) and Victoria Simms. 

  • ESRC New Investigator Award (2021-2024): Why do inequalities emerge in children’s early cognitive development? (£298,846). With Danielle Matthews (mentor).

  • Nuffield Foundation (2023-2025). Improving Early Mathematical Skills by Supporting the Home Learning Environment. (£223,580). With Victoria Simms (PI), Abbie Cahoon, Danielle Matthews, Ella James-Brabham. 

  • ESRC White Rose Network Grant (2017-2021): Inequalities in Cognitive Development (funded 3 x 1+3 PhD studentships across the White Rose doctoral training partnership). With Mark Mon-Williams (PI), Rosie McEachan, Liam Hill, Amanda Waterman, Dan Carroll, Kate Pickett and Paul Wakeling. 

  • The Nuffield Foundation (2017-2018): Testing a short executive function training intervention to improve academic skills in children before they start school (£179,111). With Dan Carroll, Danielle Matthews, and Lucy Cragg. To find out more about this project, see our webpage here.

  • The Economic and Social Research Council (2015): The neural correlates of cognitive flexibility in 2- to 4-year-olds (£2692). With Dr Sandra Wiebe (University of Alberta). Overseas Institutional Visit Award.

  • I have received a number of grants from the Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Scheme and the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) scheme to fund undergraduates to do a summer research project.

  • University of Sheffield Science Faculty Widening Participation Grant (2013) to develop a STEM activity for schools (£1200).

Teaching activities

Undergraduate Teaching:

I teach on PSY1004 and PSY2004 Developmental Psychology (level 1 and 2). I supervise Extended Essays and Research Dissertations (level 3), and I am a personal tutor to students at all levels.

Postgraduate Teaching:

I teach about longitudinal methods on PSY6121 Research Methods for Psychologists. I supervise Masters projects in Developmental Psychology.

Past MSc students have examined how cognitive skills support school readiness, and how different kinds of parenting styles associate with children’s development. I also supervise PhD students and Clinical Doctorate students.

Public Engagement and Media


I enjoy organising exhibitions, talks and activities to demonstrate my research.

These have been held as part of Pint of ScienceIgnite Academy, exhibitions at the Wellcome Collection, Cambridge Secret Garden Party with Guerilla Science, the Sheffield Mobile UniversityDiscovery Night and in locations around Sheffield for National Science and Engineering week and Sheffield City Council’s LearnFest.

I also enjoying giving talks in schools and recently ran a workshop on school readiness for local teachers and educational psychologists.

Articles and programmes