We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Research & business

View Profile

Dr Mary Hanley, BSc, PhD Psychology

Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43239
Room number: L62

(email at

Research Interests

My primary research interest is in understanding atypical social behaviour in children and adults neurodevelopmental disorders, especially Autism and Williams syndrome. Many individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders experience social vulnerability because of their unique profiles of strengths and difficulties, and I try to understand the factors that contribute. I am particularly interested in the social perceptual and cognitive mechanisms that underlie social behaviour. For example, along with behavioural measures, I use a variety of eye tracking techniques to understand the role of atypical social attention. However, it is not possible to fully understand social behaviour without understanding the interaction with other domains of functioning. With that in mind, I am particularly interested in understanding anxiety and sensory processing in neurodevelopmental disorders (linking to Liz Jones and Emily Grew’s PhD research). Indeed, these are areas that families often require urgent support with.

All of the issues mentioned above have impact in the classroom. I am also very interested in how attention abilities, social perception, sensory issues and anxiety can impact learning and achievement for children with and without neurodevelopmental disorders (linking to Emily Grew’s PhD research), and also for adults with autism at University (linking to Emine Gurbuz’s PhD research).

Through the Centre for Developmental Disorders (for which I am the Associate Director), I work to ensure that my research has impact with the groups, organisations and families for which it is most relevant. For example, by delivering parent workshops on anxiety and producing (as part of a team) booklets on ‘Anxiety in Williams Syndrome’ which have been distributed throughout the UK, Ireland, the USA and France.


Research Groups

Department of Psychology

Research Interests

  • Social Attention and Social Cognition
  • Eye tracking
  • Williams Syndrome
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Sensory processing

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2018: Seattle Club Conference: Co-organiser:
  • 2014: Conference Co-organiser: Neurodevelopmental Disorders Annual Seminar :
  • Invited Seminar, Department of Experimental Psychology Oxford University:
  • Invited Seminar, Kingston University:
  • Invited Talk, Japanese Society for Williams Syndrome:

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

  • Hanley, M (Accepted). Eye-tracking and neurodevelopmental disorders: evidence from cross-syndrome comparisons. In Neurodevelopmental disorders: Research issues and solutions. Riby, D.M. & Van Herwegen,J Psychology Press.

Journal Article

Show all publications


Selected Grants

  • 2017: Managing anxiety in Williams Syndrome: The feasibility and acceptability of Billy’s Feelings Toolbox©: A parent intervention package for young people with Williams Syndrome and anxiety, Williams Syndrome Foundation, Jacqui Rodgers (PI: Newcastle), Deborah Riby (CI: Durham), Mary Hanley (CI: Durham)
  • 2015: Increasing Awareness of Anxiety in Williams syndrome - A Support Package for Teachers (£5661.00 from Autours des Williams)
  • 2014: Increasing Awareness of Anxiety in Williams Syndrome - A Support Package for Parents and Education (£4134.00 from Williams Syndrome Foundation)
  • 2013: Anxiety in Williams Syndrome (£11269.00 from Williams Syndrome Foundation)
  • 2013: Using Eye Tracking to Explore Visual Distraction in the Classroom for Pupils with Autism (£9994.00 from The British Academy)