Philip David Zelazo, PhD

Nancy M. and John E. Lindahl Professor, Department of Psychology

Philip David Zelazo

Contact Info

Office Address:
Institute of Child Development
170 Child Development
51 East River Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Nancy M. and John E. Lindahl Professor, Department of Psychology

Center for Neurobehavioral Development

Doctoral Degree, Yale University (with distinction), 1993


Professor Zelazo studies the development and neural bases of executive function, or the conscious control of thought, action, and emotion. He does so using a variety of approaches, from experimental to cross-cultural to electrophysiological (EEG/ERP), and his work has focussed on a number of influential ideas, including the notion that the executive function depends, in part, on the development of the ability to use increasingly complex, higher-order rules (formulated in self-directed speech)—part of the Cognitive Complexity & Control theory; the notion that consciousness develops through a series of “levels” in which information is reprocessed via thalamo-cortical circuits involving prefrontal cortex (the Levels of Consciousness model)—with consequences for the quality of subjective experience, and the potential for recall, rule complexity, and cognitive control; and the importance of the distinction between more “cool,” cognitive aspects of executive function typically associated with dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DL-PFC) vs. more “hot,” affective aspects associated with more ventral and medial regions of PFC (e.g., orbitofrontal cortex; OFC).


Research Summary/Interests

Developmental cognitive neuroscience; executive function; consciousness; rule use; self and social understanding; EEG/ERP; neuroimaging; affective decision making; problem solving; cultural differences in cognitive development; thought and language.


  • Kesek, A., Cunningham, W. A., Packer, D. J., & Zelazo, P. D. (2011). Indirect goal priming is more powerful than explicit instruction in children. Developmental Science, 14, 944-948.
  • Prencipe, A., Kesek, A., Cohen, J., Lamm, C., & Zelazo, P. D. (2011). Development of hot and cool executive function during the transition to adolescence. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 108, 621-637.
  • Zelazo, P. D., Paus, T. (2010). Developmental social neuroscience: An introduction. Social Neuroscience, 5, 417-421.
  • Lahat, A., Todd, R. M., Mahy, C. E. V., & Zelazo, P. D. (2010). Neurophysiological correlates of executive function: a comparison of European-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian 5-year-old children. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 3:72, 1-10. Doi: 10.3389/neuro.09.072.2009
  • Dixon, M. L., Zelazo, P. D., & De Rosa, E. (2010). Evidence for intact memory-guided attention in school-aged children. Developmental Science, 13, 161-169.
  • Cunningham, W. A., & Zelazo, P. D. (2010). The development of iterative reprocessing: Implications for affect and its regulation. In P. D. Zelazo, M. Chandler, & E. A. Crone (Eds.). Developmental social cognitive neuroscience (pp. 81-98). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
  • Zelazo, P. D., Qu, L., & Kesek, A. C. (2010). Hot executive function: Emotion and the development of cognitive control. In S. D. Calkins & M. A. Bell (Eds.), Child development at the intersection of emotion and cognition (pp. 97-111). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Séguin, J. R., Parent, S., Tremblay, R. E., & Zelazo, P. D. (2009). Different neurocognitive functions regulating physical aggression and hyperactivity in early childhood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 679-687.
  • Marcovitch, S., & Zelazo, P. D. (2009). A hierarchical competing systems model of the emergence and early development of executive function (Target article with commentaries). Developmental Science. 12, 1-18.
  • Zelazo, P. D., Carlson, S. M., and Kesek, A. (2008). Development of executive function in childhood. In C. A. Nelson, & M. Luciana (Eds.), Handbook of developmental cognitive neuroscience, 2nd ed. (pp. 553-574). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Crone, E. A., Bullens, L., van der Plas, E. A. A., Kijkuit, E. J., & Zelazo, P. D. (2008). Developmental changes and individual differences in risk and perspective taking in adolescence. Development and Psychopathology, 20, 1213-1229.
  • Lewis, M. D., Granic, I., Lamm, C., Zelazo, P. D., Stieben, J., Todd, R. M., Moadab, I., & Pepler, D. (2008). Changes in the neural bases of emotion regulation associated with clinical improvement in children with behavior problems. Development and Psychopathology, 20, 913-939.
  • Marcovitch, S., Jacques, S., Boseovski, J. J., & Zelazo, P. D. (2008). Self-reflection and the cognitive control of behavior: Implications for learning. Mind, Brain, and Education, 2, 136-141.
  • Todd, R., Lewis, M., Muesel, L-A., & Zelazo, P. D. (2008). The time course of emotion processing in early childhood: ERP responses to affective stimuli in a Go-Nogo task. Neuropsychologia, 46, 595-613.