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

Twitter: @hkirkorian

Kirkorian Lab 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:

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)

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. DOI: 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. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1611606114

Kirkorian, H. L. (2018). Toddlers and touchscreens: How young children process and learn from screen media. Child Development Perspectives, 12, 210-214. DOI: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. DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12508

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 ed., pp 949-994). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. doi: 10.1002/9781118963418.childpsy222

Find a more comprehensive list of my publications in my CV, linked above.