Valerie San Juan

Valerie San Juan

Assistant Professor

    Bradley Hall 81
    (309) 677-3681
Lab Page



Dr. San Juan received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology and Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She completed her dissertation under the supervision of Dr. Janet Astington. Following her graduate studies, Dr. San Juan held two concurrent post-doctoral positions. Her first post-graduate position was supervised by Dr. Patricia Ganea at the University of Toronto. Most recently, Dr. San Juan completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Calgary where she worked in collaboration with Dr. Susan Graham and Dr. Suzanne Curtin. Her post-doctoral research was funded by grants from both the Eyes High Fellowship program at the University of Calgary as well as by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Dr. San Juan’s training and research background are in the areas of social cognitive development and language development. She is currently teaching courses in Principles of Psychology, Experimental Psychology and Developmental Psychology. Dr. San Juan is also passionate about mentoring young scholars who are interested in gaining experience in developmental research. She is the director of the Social Minds and Language Lab (S.M.A.L.L.) whose members are actively involved in the recruitment of families from the local community and conducting research with children ranging in age from 2 to 6 years.


Dr. San Juan is fascinated by children’s understanding of the social world (e.g., understanding that other people may have different thoughts and feelings than themselves) and how development of this knowledge comes to influence the quality of their social interactions over time. To examine these questions, Dr. San Juan uses diverse and innovative methods, including (a) computer-based games designed to assess and improve children’s cognitive control and perspective taking skills, and (b) eye-tracking technology used to track children’s visual attention as they engage in various communication games.

Recent Publications:

San Juan, V., Chambers, C. G., Berman, J., Humphry, C., & Graham, S. A. (2017). The object of my desire: 5-year-olds rapidly reason about their speaker’s desire during referential communication. Manuscript accepted to Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 162, 101-119.

San Juan, V. & Astington, J. W. (2017). Does language matter for implicit theory of mind? The effects of epistemic verb training on implicit and explicit false-belief understanding. Cognitive Development, 41, 19-32.

Graham, S. A., San Juan, V., & Khu, M. (2017). Words are not enough: Preschoolers’ integration of emotion and perspective in referential understanding. Journal of Child Language, 44, 500-526.