Stephanie M. Carlson, PhD

Professor, Director of Research, Institute of Child Development

Stephanie M. Carlson

Contact Info

Office Address:
Institute of Child Development
162 ChDev
51 E River Parkway

Professor, Director of Research, Institute of Child Development

Center for Neurobehavioral Development

Doctoral Degree, University of Oregon, 1997


I investigate basic developmental processes in executive function, theory of mind, and symbolism/pretend play. I am particularly interested in how these skills interrelate in the preschool period, their brain bases, their relevance for school readiness, and socio-cultural influences on their development.


Research Summary/Interests

Cognitive development, executive function, theory of mind, symbolism/pretend play, culture.


  • Bernier, A., Carlson, S. M., Deschênes, M., & Matte-Gagne, C. (2012). Social precursors of preschoolers’ executive functioning: A closer look at the early caregiving environment. Developmental Science, 15, 12-24.
  • Zelazo, P. D., & Carlson, S. M. (2012). Hot and cool executive function in childhood and adolescence: Development and plasticity. Child Development Perspectives. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-8606.2012.00246.x
  • Hostinar, C. E., Stellern, S. S., Schaefer, C. M., Carlson, S. M., & Gunnar, M. R. (2012). The impact of early life adversity on executive function in children adopted internationally from orphanages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, 17208-17212.
  • Imada, T., Carlson, S. M., & Itakura, S. (2012). East-West differences in context-sensitivity are evident in early childhood. Developmental Science, 16, 198-208.
  • Claxton, L. J., Strasser, J., Leung, E., & Carlson, S. M. (2012). Individual differences in the development of executive functioning and motor control in preschool-aged children. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 34, S156-S157.
  • Benson, J., Sabbagh, M. A., Carlson, S. M., & Zelazo, P. D. (2013). Individual differences in executive functioning predict preschoolers’ improvement from theory-of-mind training. Developmental Psychology, 49, 1615-1627.
  • Bernier, A., Beauchamp, M., Bouvette-Turcot, A., Carlson, S. M., & Carrier, J. (2013). Sleep and cognition in the preschool years: Specific links to executive functioning. Child Development, 84, 1542-1553.
  • Carlson, S. M., & Koenig, M., & Harms, M. (2013). Theory of mind. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 4, 391-402. DOI: 10.1002/wcs.1232
  • Carlson, S. M., Claxton, L. J., & Moses, L. J. (2013). The relation between executive function and theory of mind is more than skin deep. Journal of Cognition and Development. DOI: 10.1080/15248372.2013.824883
  • Carlson, S. M., & White, R. E. (2013). Executive function, pretend play, and imagination. In M. Taylor (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of the development of imagination (pp. 161-174). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Carlson, S. M., & Zelazo, P. D., & Faja, S. (2013). Executive function. In P. D. Zelazo (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of developmental psychology, Vol. 1: Body and mind (pp. 706-743). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Duckworth, A. L., & Carlson, S. M. (2014). Self-regulation and school success. In B. W. Sokol, F. M. E. Grouzet, & U. Mueller (Eds.), Self-regulation and Autonomy: Exploring the Social, Developmental, Educational, and Neurological Dimensions of Human Conduct (pp. 208-230). New York: Cambridge.
  • Carlson, S. M., White, R. E., & Davis-Unger, A. C. (2014). Evidence for a relation between executive function and pretense representation in preschool children. Cognitive Development, 29, 1-16.
  • Harms, M., Zayas, V., Meltzoff, A. N., and Carlson, S. M. (2014). Stability of executive function and predictions to adaptive behavior from middle childhood to pre-adolescence. Frontiers in Psychology: Developmental Psychology. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00331
  • Laranjo, J., Bernier, A., Meins, E., & Carlson, S. M. (2014). The roles of maternal mind-mindedness and infant security of attachment in preschoolers’ understanding of visual perspectives and false belief. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 125, 48-62.
  • Fuglestad, A. J., Whitley, M. L., Carlson, S. M., Boys, C. J., Eckerle, J. K., Fink, B. A., & Wozniak, J. R. (2014). Executive functioning deficits in preschool children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Child Neuropsychology. DOI: 10.1080/09297049.2014.933792
  • Doom, J., Gunnar, M. R., Georgieff, M. K., Kroupina, M. G., Frenn, K., Carlson, S. M., & Fuglestad, A. J. (in press). Beyond stimulus deprivation: Iron deficiency and cognitive deficits in post-institutionalized children. Child Development.
  • Tahiroglu, D., Moses, L. J., Carlson, S. M., Olofson, E. L., & Sabbagh, M. A. (in press). The Children’s Social Understanding Scale: Construction and validation of a parent-report theory-of-mind scale. Developmental Psychology.
  • Carlson, S. M., Faja, S., & Beck, D. M. (in press). Incorporating early development into measurement approaches: The need for a continuum of measures across development. To appear in J. A. Griffin, L. S. Freund, and P. McCardle (Eds.), Executive function in preschool age children: Integrating measurement, neurodevelopment, and translational research. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Casey, E. C., Finsaas, M., Carlson, S. M., Zelazo, P. D., Murphy, B., Durkin, F., Lister, M., & Masten, A. S. (in press). Promoting resilience through executive function training for homeless and highly mobile preschoolers. In S. Prince-Embury & D. Saklofske (Eds.) Resilience Interventions in Diverse Populations. New York City: Springer.