Emma James

Emma James

Developmental Psychologist

I am a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of York. My research fundamentally concerns how we learn. How do we learn new words, and how might the underlying processes change with development? How does language impact literacy, and what are the implications for later life outcomes? I welcome contact from students interested in pursuing PhD research in related topics - please do get in touch via email.

I am currently the Early Career Researcher Representative on the committee for the Experimental Psychology Society, and would be very glad to discuss ideas for supporting the ECR community.

You can find out more about my research projects below.


  • Learning and memory
  • Language acquisition
  • Literacy development
  • Reproducible science


  • PhD in Psychology, 2019

    University of York

  • MSc in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2015

    University of York

  • BA in Experimental Psychology, 2013

    University of Oxford


Precursors and consequences of reading comprehension difficulties

Ongoing: Secondary data analysis with Prof. Kate Nation

Identifying difficulties in reading comprehension

Ongoing; collective effort in combining reading comprehension datasets

Sleep-associated consolidation in app-based language learning

Ongoing; ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship research

Understanding memory processes across development

2019: Postdoctoral research with Dr Aidan Horner

Individual differences in word learning and consolidation

2014–2019: PhD research with Dr Lisa Henderson and Prof. Gareth Gaskell

The role of morphological awareness in reading comprehension

2013–2014: Research Associate for Prof. Kate Cain

Upcoming & Recent Talks

[Title tbc]

Specific comprehension difficulties are very rarely specific: tales from experimental and data-driven approaches

According to the Simple View of Reading (Hoover & Gough, 1990), reading disorders can arise from difficulties in decoding letters …

The reading difficulties of children with (even mild) language impairments

We most commonly think of reading disorders as difficulties with decoding written letters into words, as in dyslexia. Yet the ultimate …

Recent Publications

(2022). Word learning in the context of semantic prior knowledge: Evidence of interference from feature-based neighbours in children and adults. Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience.

PDF Dataset Project DOI

(2021). The role of prior lexical knowledge in children’s and adults’ incidental word learning from illustrated stories. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

PDF Dataset Project DOI

Recent Blog Posts

From little to large: the importance of understanding morphemes for understanding texts

Lots of words are made up of smaller units of meaning, called morphemes. We measured children’s awareness of morphemes, and looked at its importance for reading comprehension.

Using prior knowledge to build vocabulary

Within education, the Matthew effect describes how the “rich get richer” in literacy skills. We focused on this effect in vocabulary, and asked how existing vocabulary knowledge might support memory for new words.