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Durham University

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Professor Deborah Riby, PhD Psychology

Professor in the Department of Psychology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43247
Room number: L60

(email at


I joined the Department of Psychology at Durham University in 2013 having previously been a member of academic staff in the School of Psychology at Newcastle University and having completed my PhD at Stirling University.

Since arriving in Durham I have been course director for the MSc Developmental Psychopathology, MA Research Methods (Dev Psy), and co-director for the MSc Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. I have also been research group leader for Developmental Science, and Director of Research for the Department of Psychology.

In 2017, with Dr Mary Hanley I founded the Centre for Developmental Disorders research at Durham University - visit for further information.

In August 2018 I became the Director of the NINE DTP - the north east of England and Northern Ireland doctoral training partnership for the social sciences (ESRC funded) - visit for further information.

I am a British Psychological Society Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow. In 2014 I was awarded the Margaret Donaldson Prize by the British Psychological Society (Developmental Psychology Section) for recognition of my cross-syndrome research on social perception / social cognition in developmental disorders and my "contribution to theory / innovative methodology".

Research Interests

I am a developmental psychologist interested in typical development and developmental disorders.

My research predominantly focuses on syndrome-specific signatures of typical / atypical development in neurodevelopmental disorders. My primary research area is social perception and social cognition in Williams syndrome (WS) and Autism (ASD). Within this area I have used a variety of eye tracking and innovative experimental tasks to explore areas of relative proficiency or deficit (exploring syndrome-specific signatures or cross-syndrome overlaps and having theoretical implications). I have used face perception and the interpretion of social cues from faces as a method of exploring communication strategies and social behaviours / tendancies associated with these disorders. I have more recently become interested in issues of social vulnerability associated with Williams syndrome - such as increased approach to unfamiliar people and awareness of stranger danger. Therefore the work that I conduct has both theoretical and applied relevance.

Linking to the above area of interest I am focusing on the links between social behaviours and other facets of these neurodevelopmental disorders, such as anxiety, sensory processing and executive functions. A large focus of my recent research has also been on supporting families of individuals with WS, especially in relation to anxiety.

Linking the two aforementioned areas of research activity I am particularly interested in understanding the needs of the 'whole' individual and how we need to encompass areas of cognition, behaviour and psychopathology in developing theory, but also in providing support and interventions for individuals with these disorders of development. Understanding the 'whole' also extends to understanding the family system.

Research Groups

Department of Psychology

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Riby, D M, Bruce, V & Jawaid, A (2011). Everyone’s friend? The case of Williams syndrome. In Pathological Altruism. Oakley, B., Knafo, A., Madhavan, G. & Wilson, D. S. Ocford University Press.
  • Riby, D M (2011). Face Processing and Social Interactions. In Developmental Disabilities across the Lifespan. Farran, E. & Karmiloff-Smith, A. Oxford University Press.
  • Riby, D M & Porter, M (2010). Williams syndrome. In ). Developmental Disorders & Interventions: Advances in Child Development and Behavior. Holmes, J. Academic Press.
  • Brock, J, Einav, S & Riby, D M (2008). The other end of the spectrum? Social cognition in Williams syndrome. In Social cognition: Development, Neuroscience and Autism. Reid, V. & Striano, T Blackwell.

Edited book

Journal Article

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