Our research focus is on cognitive and social-cognitive development in the first years after birth, with a particular interest in learning and memory.
These are some of the specific topics we are currently investigating:

Infants spend the majority of their time asleep. Nevertheless, surprisingly little was known about the effects of sleep on early learning and memory until recently. Some recent studies have shown that sleep supports memory functioning early in life already. Building on these findings we are investigating if sleep is relevant for selectivity in remembering and for qualitative changes in early memories.

Related publications:

Konrad, C., Dirks, N. D., Warmuth, A., Herbert, J. S., Schneider, S., & Seehagen, S. (2019). Sleep-dependent selective imitation in infants. Journal of Sleep Research, 28, e12777. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12777

Seehagen, S., Konrad, C., Herbert, J. S., & Schneider, S. (2015). Timely sleep facilitates declarative memory consolidation in infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112, 1625-1629. doi:10.1073/pnas.1414000112

The range of media targeted at children has increased rapidly over the last decades: Tablets, smartphones, television and other devices offer a range of different possibilities for viewing, interacting, and playing to younger and older children. The drawbacks and opportunities of media use in the first years of life are not completely understood. It is well established, however, that it is more difficult for infants to learn new behaviours from media compared to learning in real-life social interactions. We are examining which factors could support infants in transferring knowledge offered in media to the 3-D world.

Related publications:

Seehagen, S., & Herbert, J. S. (2011). Infant imitation from televised peer and adult models. Infancy, 16, 113-136. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7078.2010.00045.x

Seehagen, S., Schneider, S., Miebach, K., Frigge, K., & Zmyj, N. (2017). „Should I or shouldn’t I?“ Imitation of undesired versus allowed actions from peer and adult models by 18- and 24-month-old toddlers. Infant Behavior and Development, 49, 1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.06.001



Experiences made during the first years of life are thought to be crucial for long-term human development. If children grow up in stressful circumstances this can have consequences for their cognitive development, too. We are examining how potentially stressful life events are related to how flexibly infants and young children deal with requirements for behavioral change in learning tasks.

Related publications:

Seehagen, S., Schneider, S., Rudolph, J., Ernst, S., & Zmyj, N. (2015). Stress impairs cognitive flexibility in infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112, 12882-12886. doi:10.1073/pnas.1508345112

Zmyj, N., Schneider, S., & Seehagen, S. (2017). Fifteen-month-old infants’ cortisol levels decrease after a 30-min-warm-up procedure. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 76, 11-13. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.11.010.

Pregnancy and birth bring with them many changes and challenges that can be stressful. Impaired maternal well-being can have consequences for infant behaviour and development. Recent studies suggest that maternal repetitive negative thinking could be a relevant underlying mechanism to explain relations between maternal mental health and infant development. We are aiming to investigate this possibility further and to identify suitable targets for interventions. 

Related publications:

Müller, D., Teismann, T., Hirschfeld, G., Zmyj, N., Fuths, S., Vocks, S., Schneider, S., & Seehagen, S. (2019). The course of maternal repetitive negative thinking at the transition to motherhood and early mother-infant interactions: Is there a link? Development and Psychopathology31(4), 1411–1421.

Schmidt, D., Seehagen, S., Hirschfeld, G., Vocks, S., Schneider, S., & Teismann, T. (2017). Repetitive negative thinking and impaired mother-infant bonding: A longitudinal study. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 41, 498-507. doi:10.1007/s10608-016-9823-8

Past research has shown that infants effectively discriminate a range of different faces until about 6 months of age. From then, infants’ face processing skills increasingly reflect their everyday visual experiences and they become attuned to those types of faces (e.g., in terms of species, ethnicity) that they frequently see. We are studying this phenomenon of perceptual narrowing further and ask if infants with versus without siblings vary in their face processing of child faces over time. In this study we also examine how babies imitate object-related actions of other people. Specifically, we want to find out whether babies with siblings differ from babies without siblings in their imitation of unfamiliar and familiar actions performed by a child and an adult model.

Preschoolers often adapt their behavior to different situations and people. We are interested in the way they change their affect and behavior, when the perform different activities with different caregivers. We moreover strive to investigate whether different adults (for example mother and grandmother) behave differently with their child or grandchild, respectively.

For more information on our ‘grandparents study’ click here