Dr Emma Blakey

Department of Psychology
University of Sheffield
Cathedral Court
1 Vicar Lane, Sheffield
S1 2LT
Email:  emma.blakey@sheffield.ac.uk


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

Research Interests

Executive functions are the set of high-level cognitive skills underpinning controlled and goal-directed thinking. I am interested in understanding how executive functions develop, how they underpin school readiness and how their development can be best supported. I am particularly interested in understanding how executive functions develop in toddlers and preschoolers and why executive functions vary along the socio-economic spectrum. I use experimental, cross-sectional, longitudinal and training study designs in my research. In collaboration with the ABCD lab at the University of Alberta we have also been using ERP methods to examine the neural correlates of early executive function development.

If you would like to take part in our studies with your child, please see the Sheffield Cognitive Development Research Group page and volunteer.

Additional Research Interests:

Temporal Cognition: Our experience of time is notably subjective: it can vary depending on how we are feeling and the situation we are in. As part of my post-doctoral work at Cardiff University, I worked with Marc Buehner, Emma Tecwyn, Teresa McCormack, David Lagnado, Christoph Hoerl and Sara Lorimer to examine how causal beliefs influence children’s and adult’s experience of time. There is an established finding in adults that events are perceived as occurring earlier in time when they are caused compared to when they are not caused. This is known as ‘temporal binding.’ We have been examining the nature of temporal binding through development. You can read our article on this here, and see a video explaining this work here.

Understanding ASMR: With Giulia Poerio, Tom Hostler and Theresa Veltri we have been studying the affective and physiological characteristics of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) or “head tingles.” You can read more about our research in our article here and in the news here.


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).

Current PhD Students

Ella James-Brabham: Understanding how we can close the achievement gap: The role of SES and cognitive factors on early mathematical skills
Yesim Yavaslar: The development of cognitive flexibility in early childhood
Aleksandra Laketa (International Faculty, City College, Thessaloniki): The role of acculturation and motivation in testing the bilingualism cognitive advantage

Arvesa Studenica (International Faculty, City College, Thessaloniki): Mechanisms underpinning the bilingual cognitive advantage

Current Teaching

PSY1004 Developmental Psychology I - Module Organiser
PSY269 Developmental Psychology - Module Organiser
PSY259 Critical Skills for Psychologists
Research Project in Psychology 
Extended Essay in Psychology
PSY6121 Research Methods (MSc Psychological Research)

Links to other web profiles


Public Engagement and Media


I enjoy organising exhibitions, talks and activities to demonstrate my research. These have been held as part of Pint of Science, Ignite Academy, exhibitions at the Wellcome Collection, Cambridge Secret Garden Party with Guerilla Science, the Sheffield Mobile University, Discovery 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:

I was interviewed for the Learning Scientists podcast about my executive function research. Listen here.
I have wrote articles for The Conversation on topics of Developmental Psychology
I was involved in the Wellcome Trust Science of Learning 'ask a scientist' web event
I was interviewed for the American Scientist article “Fact or Fiction: Video games are the future of education
Guardian article: 
“ASMR and head orgasms: what’s the science behind it?”
BBC programme featuring our ASMR research

BBC News article featuring our research
Radio Two news programme featuring our ASMR research


A list of key publications can be found below.  For a full list of publications please click here

Journal articles