Heather Kirkorian

Heather Kirkorian

Laura M. Secord Chair in Early Childhood Development, Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies
4105 Nancy Nicholas Hall 1300 Linden Drive

The medium is not the message… the message is the message.

-Anderson et al. (2001)

I received my Ph.D. (2007) in Developmental Psychology from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where I also completed my postdoctoral training. I have been an Assistant Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 2010. My research interests are at the intersection of early cognitive development and media effects. I am also interested in identifying techniques to increase the value of media for very young children, enabling producers to create educationally valuable media and empowering parents to use these media effectively. My current projects include explorations of attention and learning, young children’s attention to and comprehension of screen media, toddlers’ ability to learn from interactive touchscreen devices, and the impact of television on cognitive development. Click here to view my TEDx talk on interactive media and young children

Look at my CV here.

Cognitive Development and Media Lab

Dr. Kirkorian directs the Cognitive Development and Media Lab (CDML) at the University of Wisconsin. Please visit the CDML website for more information about ongoing research projects, student activities, presentations, publications, media appearances, and more.
CDML Website

Broadly, Dr. Kirkorian’s research interests are at the intersection of cognitive development and media impact with an emphasis on attentional mechanisms. Her current projects address the extent to which infants and toddlers can learn from video, the development of attention to video, and the impact of television on very young children, particularly as it relates to solitary toy play and parent-child interaction as potential mediators of cognitive development. For more information:

Undergraduate Courses

HDFS 362: Development of the Young Child: This online course provides a basic foundation for understanding development from conception through middle childhood. Content includes theoretical foundations, research findings, and practical applications. This course partially satisfies Learning Outcome 1 for HDFS majors.

HDFS 592: Research Experience in HDFS: Research experience under the supervision of a faculty member in Human Development and Family Studies. My section of HDFS 592 focuses on experimental research with young children, particularly regarding attention to and learning from video.

HDFS 616: Mass Media and Youth (cross-listed with Communication Arts, Journalism & Mass Communication, and Life Science Communication): This course covers children’s and adolescents’ use of mass media and mass media effects on them. Particular attention is given to changes in comprehension and other cognitive activities that give insights into media use and effects. Topics include history of children’s media; how children use, understand, and respond to media; the effects of media on cognitive and social development, family processes, and children’s health; and the application of theory and research to media policy and production. This course fulfills Learning Outcome 4 for HDFS Majors.

Graduate Courses

HDFS 766: Media, Learning, and Cognitive Development: This graduate seminar examines cognitive development in the context of mass media (e.g., television, video games). A primary focus of the course is how research/theory can inform the production of educationally valuable programs for informal learning during early childhood. Topics include the following: how children use, understand, and respond to educational television and video games; the effects of screen media on cognitive development; and the application of theory and research to media production, policy and intervention.

Selected Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

Choi, K., Kirkorian, H. L., & Pempek, T. A. (2017). Understanding the transfer deficit: Contextual mismatch, proactive interference, and working memory affect toddlers’ video-based transfer. Child Development. DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12810.

Kirkorian, H. L., & Choi, K. (2016). Associations between toddlers’ naturalistic media experience and observed learning from screens. Infancy, 22, 271-277. doi:10.1111/infa.12171

Kirkorian, H. L., & Anderson, D. R. (2016). Anticipatory eye movements while watching movement across shots in video sequences: A developmental study. Child Development. 10.1111/cdev.12651

Schroeder, E. L., & Kirkorian, H. L. (2016). When seeing is better than doing: Preschoolers’ transfer of STEM skills using touchscreen games. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1-12. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01377

Choi, K., & Kirkorian, H. L. (2016). Touch or watch to learn? Toddlers’ object retrieval using contingent and noncontingent video. Psychological Science, 5, 726-736. DOI: 10.1177/0956797616636110

Kirkorian, H. L., Choi, K., & Pempek, T. A. (2016). Toddlers’ word learning from contingent and noncontingent video on touchscreens. Child Development, 87, 405-413. DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12508

Kirkorian, H. L., Anderson, D. R., & Keen, R. (2012). Age differences in online processing of video: An eye movement study. Child Development, 83, 497-507. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01719.x

Kirkorian, H. L., Pempek, T. A., Murphy, L. A., Schmidt, M. E., & Anderson, D. R. (2009). The impact of background television on parent-child interaction. Child Development, 80, 1350-1359.

Selected Invited Book Chapters and Reviews

Kirkorian, H. L. & Pempek, T. A., & Choi, K. (2017). The role of online processing in young children’s learning from interactive and non-interactive media. In R. Barr & D. N. Linebarger (Eds.) Media Exposure During Infancy and Early Childhood: The Effects of Content and Context on Learning and Development. Springer: New York, NY.

Anderson, D. R., & Kirkorian, H. L. (2015). Media and Cognitive Development. In R.M. Lerner, L. S. Liben, & U. Mueller (Eds.) Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science, 7th Edition. Wiley: Hoboken, NJ.