Lab Director

Dr. Amrisha Vaish

Amrisha is the Pamela Feinour Edmonds and Franklin S. Edmonds Jr. Discovery Associate Professor and director of the Early Social Development Lab at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on the social, emotional, and moral development of young children. In particular, she studies the emergence and functions of moral emotions (such as empathy, sympathy, guilt, gratitude, and forgiveness), moral judgments, and prosocial behavior. She is also interested in how infants understand and learn from others’ emotions and desires.

Amrisha received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Free University Berlin (Germany) in 2010. Prior to starting at UVA in 2014, she was a Dilthey Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Amrisha is a Fellow of APS. She received the SRCD Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award in 2011, the APA Division 7 Dissertation Award in 2012, an APS ‘Rising Star’ designation in 2015, and the APS Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions in 2018. Her research has been funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Volkswagen Foundation. She is a faculty fellow of the LIFE Academy and a faculty affiliate of Youth-Nex.


[Amrisha’s CV]


Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Jessie Stern 

js (1) Jessie’s research examines how social relationships shape the developing brain, and in turn, empathy and social behavior. After receiving her BA in Psychology at Pomona College, she completed her PhD at University of Maryland, working with Dr. Jude Cassidy to investigate attachment relationships. She is a recipient of a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation, a doctoral dissertation award from the Society for Research in Child Development, and a National Research Service Award from NIH. She works jointly with Drs. Amrisha Vaish, Toby Grossmann, and Joe Allen to study social development in infants, children, and adolescents.



Graduate Students

Meltem Yucel

thumbnail_Yucel_Headshots_short Meltem is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in Developmental Psychology. She is also a fellow in the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course (LIFE Academy). Prior to attending UVA, she received her B.A in Psychology from Ozyegin University in 2015. She is a recipient of the 2020 APS Albert Bandura Graduate Research Award from the Association for Psychological Science (APS) and Psi Chi International Honor Society in Psychology. She has also been selected as a Francis Degen Horowitz Millennium Scholar by the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD). Meltem is interested in children’s social and moral development, specifically focusing on how and when children become moral beings.


Twitter: @nm_yucel



Stefen Beeler


Stefen received his BA degree from the University of Tennessee in Psychology. He continued his education at Boston University, where he received an M.A. in Psychology focused on Developmental Psychology. Stefen gained experience in many developmental and social neuroscience labs in Boston, including the Boston University Social Development and Learning Lab, Harvard University Moral Cognition Lab, as well as the Harvard University Social Cognitive Development Group. Stefen is interested in children’s altruistic behavior and cooperation. He loves the outdoors and is excited to explore Charlottesville and the Shenandoah Valley.



Johanna Chajes

31530370_1675458175836292_8738366621640294400_oJohanna is a third-year Ph.D. student in the developmental psychology program. She received her B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Delaware where she completed an honors thesis focusing on the effects of early life stress on the brain and behavior. Johanna is interested in understanding the development of prosocial or altruistic behaviors in young children by making connections between their observable behaviors and their underlying brain activity. When she’s not in the lab, she enjoys dancing and crafting and is excited to explore Charlottesville during her time at UVA.



Lab Alumni

Caroline Kelsey 

Dr. Janine Oostenbroek, Postdoctoral Research Associate