Heather Kirkorian

Heather Kirkorian

Department Chair, Associate Professor, Laura M. Secord Chair in Early Childhood Development, Faculty Director of the Child Development Lab
Human Development and Family Studies Department and Major
Office 4105

The medium is not the message… the message is the message!

–Anderson and colleagues (2001)

My research interests lie at the intersection of cognitive development, media effects, and family studies. I am Director of the Cognitive Development and Media Lab, where my students and I study the impact of screen media on attention, learning, and play in infants and young children. We use behavioral, observational, and psychophysiological research methods to examine moment-to-moment changes in children’s responses to media. We also consider how research can inform the design of educationally valuable media and empower parents to use these media effectively with young children. View my TEDx talk on interactive media and young children.

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PhD, Developmental Psychology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
MS, Developmental Psychology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
BA, Psychology, University of New Hampshire at Durham


UW–Madison Department of Psychology
UW–Madison Department of Educational Psychology
Center for Child and Family Wellbeing
McPherson Eye Research Institute
Institute of Digital Media and Child Development

Recent press

Learning doesn’t stop when schools close, Wisconsin State Journal, March 29, 2020
The rise of location trackers for kids as young as 3, New York Times, March 5, 2020
Why does children’s TV seem so ridiculous and addictive?, The Independent, December 30, 2019
YouTube tweaked algorithm to appease FTC but creators are worried, Bloomberg, August 8, 2019

External media

Kirkorian Lab website
Twitter: @hkirkorian


View my CV or visit the Cognitive Development and Media Lab website for information about my research.

My current projects include the following topics:

  • The extent to which infants and toddlers learn from digital media
  • The associations between attention and memory during naturalistic activities (e.g., TV viewing, toy play)
  • The ways in which families use media to meet different needs

Development of the Young Child (HDFS 362)

Research Experience in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS 592)

Mass Media and Youth (HDFS 616)

Media, Learning, and Cognitive Development (HDFS 766)

Barr, R. F., Kirkorian, H. L., Radesky, J., Coyne, S., Nichols, D., Blanchfield, O., et al. (2020). Beyond screen time: A synergistic approach to a more comprehensive assessment of family media exposure. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1283. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01283

Kirkorian, H. L., Choi, K., & Anderson, D. R. (2019). American parents’ active involvement mediates the impact of background television on young children’s toy play. Journal of Children and Media, 19, 377-394. https://doi.org/10.1080/17482798.2019.1635033

Kirkorian, H. L., & Anderson, D. R. (2018). Effect of sequential video shot comprehensibility on attentional synchrony: A comparison of children and adults. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115, 9867-9874. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1611606114

Kirkorian, H. L. (2018). When and how do interactive digital media help children connect what they see on and off the screen? Child Development Perspectives, 12, 210-214. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12290

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