Florida International University, USA
What does your research focus on?
My research focuses on such questions as, what do children say about the past and why? What factors influence when(or if) and how children disclose abuse? What’s the best way to question children about their eyewitness memories? How can knowledge of children’s cognitive and social development facilitate their participation in the legal system — a system designed for adults but that sees millions of children each year?
What drew you to this line of research? Why is it exciting to you?
When I was 16, I started what I hoped would be a long radio career by becoming an “on-air personality” at a popular rock station in Michigan. It was exciting and, dare I say, glamorous (what teenager wouldn’t want “interview favorite bands” in her job description?). After a few years, I realized that radio would not be an intellectually stimulating or academically challenging career path (no offense, Courtney Love…I did genuinely enjoy our interview). This concerned me because my love of academia was present from an early age of wearing “I Heart School” barrettes and sneaking flashlights into my room to study late into the night. Eventually, I switched majors after taking an undergraduate seminar with Debra Poole, a psychology professor who occasionally mentioned her exciting research on children’s eyewitness testimony. I didn’t have a clue about graduate school until she spent countless hours advising me on my honors thesis, first conference presentation, and PhD program applications. Deb was the first of several academic mentors to change my education, career, and life.
Now I get to ask fascinating theoretical questions about developmental psychology, combine these questions with my interest in law, and potentially benefit the lives of vulnerable children.
Who were/are your mentors or psychological influences?
Jodi Quas was a truly exceptional graduate advisor. Her tireless efforts, infectious energy, remarkable productivity, and steadfast commitment to my academic and professional development were incredible. I was extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to do my postdoctoral work at the University of Cambridge (during the 800-year anniversary celebration year!) with Michael Lamb, who is not only a brilliant thinker and scholar but an amazingly kind and generous human being. How can you not be inspired by someone who had finished his PhD by age 21 and has continued such an extraordinarily prolific career? I owe a tremendous amount to Beth Cauffman and Tom Lyon. They allowed me to “crash” their labs, introduced me to new lines of research and perspectives, and were as invested and encouraging as if I was “their own.” My colleagues at my new home of Florida International University have been enormously helpful and supportive, and I am absolutely thrilled to have joined this department!
To what do you attribute your success in the science?
Any success can be chalked up to outstanding mentors, excellent collaborators, enthusiastic and dedicated students, and the families, organizations, and funding agencies involved in our collaborative research. As a first-generation college student, I have a very strong appreciation for calling what I do my “job” and never take for granted the freedom and opportunities that come with it. From my parents, I learned that determination, sacrifice, hard work in the face of adversity, and perhaps most important, an almost uncompromising sense of humor, will lead to success. And, if not, at least you will have some good laughs along the way.
What’s your future research agenda?
I am launching a project examining the event memory, narratives, and suggestibility of children with ADHD, a group of great interest for theoretical and practical reasons (e.g., increased risk of involvement in the legal system). Fortunately, one of the top ADHD researchers (William Pelham) is now at FIU and is contributing his expertise to this effort.
Any advice for even younger psychological scientist? What would you tell someone just now entering graduate school or getting their PhD?
When I received my first manuscript decision letter, I was devastated…and then confused that my more-experienced co-authors were so excited! Realize early on that rejection (or what feels like rejection before you understand the “revise and resubmit” lingo) is part of the process and that critical feedback will improve your science. So, be fiercely persistent and in it for the long haul on every project. In graduate school, you will meet mentors and your future peers in the field (potentially, lifelong friends). Start to build supportive networks and share, share, share with colleagues at every level. I have been told that no one does this alone.
What publication are you most proud of or feel has been most important to your career?
Malloy, L.C., Lyon, T.D., Quas, J.A. (2007). Filial dependency and recantation of child sexual abuse. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 46, 162-170.
This paper asks, why would a child disclose sexual abuse and later “take back” those allegations? Recently, I stumbled on our paper investigating this controversial topic cited in an amicus brief submitted to the US Supreme Court — that was a very exciting moment.