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Durham University

Research & business

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Professor Emma Flynn, Ph.D.

Professor in the School of Education
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 46050
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 48412

Contact Professor Emma Flynn (email at

Research Interests

My research focuses on various aspects of socio-cognitive development, including social learning (observational learning, peer tutoring and collaboration), the acquisition, transmission and evolution of cultural behaviours and the development of, and inter-relations between, theory of mind and executive functioning. In my work I have adopted specialised methods, including the microgenetic method, diffusion chains and open diffusion.

Research Interests

  • Mechanisms of observational learning (including imitation and emulation)
  • Processes and strategies of information transmission
  • Acquisition of artefact knowledge and tool use
  • Social learning: Observational learning, collaboration and peer tutoring
  • Innovation
  • Cumulative culture
  • The development of socio-cognitive skills (theory of mind and executive functioning)

Journal Reviewer: Animal Behaviour; British Journal of Developmental Psychology; Child Development; Cognitive Development; Current Anthropology; Current Biology; Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience; Developmental Neuropsychology; Developmental Psychology; Developmental Review; Developmental Science; Evolution and Human Behaviour; Journal for the Study of Education and Development; Infant and Child Development; International Journal for Infant Behavior; Learning and Instruction; Philosophical Psychology; Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society; PLoS One; Scientific Reports; Social Development; Journal of Experimental Child Psychology; Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

Grant Reviewer: Economic and Social Research Council; The Leverhulme Trust; The Nuffield Foundation; Royal Society; British Academy; National Science Foundation, USA; Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.

PhD Examining: Cardiff, Psychology; Stirling, Psychology; Durham, Psychology & Education; Utretch, Biology.

Information for prospective doctoral research student supervisions

I am happy to receive enquiries from students who are interested in completing a PhD on any of my research interests

Research Groups

Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Research Projects

School of Education

Research Interests

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2017: Social Cognition Panel Member:

    Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research into Child Development, Austin,

  • 2016: External Examiner:

    School of Psychology, University of Nottingham

  • 2016: National Seminars:

    Durham University; University of Sheffield; University of Stirling

  • 2016: Speaker:

    Agency, Morals & the Mind; The Human Mind Project, School of Advanced Study, University of London

  • 2015: Cognitive Processes Panel Member: Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research into Child Development, Philadelphia, US:
  • 2014: Co-Hosting Templeton Foundation and ESRC Funded Workshop, 'Innovation in Animals and Humans' (St Andrews, UK) :
  • 2014: Cognition Panel Member: International Conference on Infant Studies, Berlin
  • 2014: National Seminars : University of Kent; University of Essex
  • 2014: Peer Review College:

    Joined the ESRC Peer Review College for 2 years from November

  • 2013: Associate Editor: PLOSOne
  • 2013: International Seminar: University of Heidelberg, Germany
  • 2013: Invited Speaker: ERC meeting 'Embodiment and Extension in Cultural Evolution', University of Cambridge, Developmental Niche Construction
  • 2013: Panel Member: Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research into Child Development, Seattle, US
  • 2012: Forum member: Invitation to attend the Ernst Strugmann Forum on Cultural Evolution, Frankfurt
  • 2012: International Panel Member : The Romanian Government's National Research Council
  • 2012: National Seminars: Institute of Education; Bangor University; Plymouth University
  • 2011: Conference address: Invited to Address the AHRC Culture and the Mind: Artefacts and Material Culture Series, University of Sheffield
  • 2011: Conference address: Invited to Address the Physical Cognition and Problem Solving Series, University of Birmingham
  • 2011: National Seminars: University of York; University of Lancaster; University of Northumbria; City University
  • 2010: Invited Seminar: At the Max Plank Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig
  • 2007: Guest editor: For Special Issue of Infant and Child Development: 'Using microgenetic methods to investigate cognitive development'

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Mesoudi, A., Laland, K.N., Boyd, R., Buchanan, B., Flynn, E., McCauley, R.N., Renn, J., Reyes-Garcia, V., Shennan, S.J., Stout, D. & Tennie, C. (2013). The cultural evolution of technology and science. In Cultural Evolution: Society, Technology, Language, and Religion. Richerson, P. & Christiansen, M. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.
  • Flynn, E. (2010). Underpinning Collaborative Learning. In Self and Social Regulation: Social interaction and the development of social understanding and executive functions. Sokol, B., Muller, U., Carpendale, J., Young, A. & Iarocci, G. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 312-336.

Journal Article

Show all publications


Selected Grants

  • 2014: Developmental Trajectory of Trust (and Mistrust) through Childhood into Adulthood (£5000.00 from Epsrc)
  • 2014: The Trust Map (£217125.00 from ESRC)
  • 2013: CAPES (Brazilian Government Funding, 2013 – 2016, Full Studentship and Fees), ‘An investigation into the social learning of co-operation in children: cognitive, cultural and social difference’ for Natalia Dutra.
  • 2013: Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust and Durham University Seedcorn Funding ‘Spread and Embed: Investigating the adoption, transmission and evolution of healthcare processes’ PI (2013, £26572), Co-Is (Prof J Reilly & Prof D Hunter, School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, and Mr M Sykes, Head of Patient Safety and Risk, TEWV NHS FT)
  • 2012: ESRC Grant Award, 'Uncovering the determinants of the discovery, utilisation and transmission of information through social learning and innovation in young children' PI (2012- 2015: £252000), Co-I is Prof Luc-Alain Giraldeau
  • 2012: North East Doctoral Training Centre Studentship, ‘Understanding the process of behavioural innovation’ to Miss Kayleigh Carr
  • 2012: RF230065: Uncovering the determinants of the discovery, Utilisation and transmission of information through social learning and innovation in young children, ESRC, £252,000, 2012-09-29 - 2015-09-28
  • 2010: Durham University Industrial Bridging Fellow Award, ‘Investigating infant sleep patterns’ for Miss Anna Groendahl (£23000)
  • 2010: Durham University Seedcorn Funding ‘Towards an understanding of cumulative culture: A developmental and comparative perspective’ (£5000)
  • 2010: Durham University Studentship Award ‘Towards an understanding of cumulative culture: A developmental and comparative perspective’ for Miss Gill Vale
  • 2009: Durham Doctoral Fellowship Award, ‘From whom do I learn? Human and non-human primates' understanding of the model’ for Miss Lara Wood
  • 2008: ESRC Case Studentship Award, ‘The psychology of infant colic’ to Miss Fiona Kaley
  • 2008: Mentor for an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow, ‘The development of social learning in children: The interplay between imitation and emulation’ Dr Lydia Hopper (£81076)
  • 2007: ESRC Research Seminars Award 'Using the microgenetic method to investigate cognitive development' (2005: £12000)
  • 2004: British Psychological Society Research Seminars Award ‘Using the microgenetic method to investigate cognitive development’ (£3000)