Faculty & Staffarrow_forward
Alison Heck
Dr. Alison Heck
Assistant Professor of Psychology|Psychology
Photo of Dr. Alison Heck
Office Location
Frost Building, 203
Office Hours
  • Mon: 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
  • Tue/Thurs: 12-1 p.m.
  • Wed: 2:45 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.
  • Please email to set up an appointment outside of office hours (virtual or in-person). If I am not logged on to Zoom, please send a quick email to let me know you are there.
  • General Psychology (PSY 100)
  • Developmental Psychology w/Lab (PSY 244)
  • Cognitive Psychology w/Lab (PSY 208)
  • Principles of Learning w/Lab (PSY 207)
  • Cross-Cultural Psychology (PSY 217)
  • Senior Research Capstone (PSY 424)
  • Seminar in Psychological Science - APS May Term (PSY 200S)

My research interests primarily center around socioemotional and cognitive development in infancy and beyond. Much of my research has focused on how infants learn to recognize emotional faces, bodies, and voices across the first two years of life, which I have studied using eye-tracking technology. A secondary interest is in infants' language development, particularly as it relates to their social environment (e.g., how might parental emotions impact infants' vocabulary development?). While I continue to have a robust interest in this age group, I have begun to shift my focus to older ages, including adults. One of my major aims is to improve the ecological validity of the research being conducted -- this includes using videos rather than photographs in my research on emotions and language, but it also includes an intentional focus on including more diversity in my research, both in terms of the participants themselves as well as the diverse representation of different backgrounds in the faces and voices that I use in my studies. Let's be less WEIRD and more inclusive!

Beyond my research interests, in class you will also hear me talking about the greatest film franchise and book series that exists, The Lord of the Rings, as well as other classics, such as Jaws and Psycho. I enjoy reading fantasy/sci-fi books, use pop-culture references frequently, and am not above showing you pictures of my dogs. Come by and chat anytime about psychology, the greatness that is Gandalf, or about the similarities in the moral dilemmas in The Last of Us to the classic Trolley Problem.

  • Ph.D. in Developmental Science, Virginia Tech, 2015
  • M.S. in Developmental & Biological Psychology, Virginia Tech, 2012
  • B.S. in Psychology, Virginia Tech, 2008
Publications & Works
  • Research Interests

    • Impact of social cues on infants’ and children’s cognitive development (e.g., language, attention, associative learning)
    • Socioemotional development in infancy and childhood (e.g., multimodal emotion processing)
    • Influence of parents on infant development (e.g., depression/anxiety symptoms and infants’ language development)
    • Eye-tracking across the life-span
    • Use of ecologically-valid stimuli in emotion and language research
  • Selected Publications

    • Heck, A., White, H., Jubran, R., & Bhatt, R.S. (in press). Emotions in infants. In G. L. Schiewer, J. Altaribba, & B. C. Ng (Eds.), Handbook on Language and Emotion. De Gruyter Mouton.
    • Heck, A., Chroust, A., White, H., Jubran, R., & Bhatt, R.S. (2018). Development of body emotion perception in infancy: From discrimination to recognition. Infant Behavior and Development, 50, 42-51. DOI: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.10.007
    • Heck, A., Hock, A., White, H., Jubran, R., & Bhatt, R.S. (2017). Further evidence of early development of attention to dynamic facial emotions: Reply to Grossmann and Jessen. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 152, 155-162. DOI:
    • Heck, A., Hock, A., White, H., Jubran, R., & Bhatt, R.S. (2016). The development of attention to dynamic facial emotions. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 147, 100-110. DOI:
    • Heck, A.R., Panneton, R.K., & Mills-Smith, L. (2016). Bimodal dynamics of faces and voices influence older infants’ perception of emotion. Infancy, 21(4), 522-531. DOI: 10.111/infa.12121
    • Heck, A., White, H., Jubran, R., & Bhatt, R.S. Emotion perception in infants. Second draft under review. To appear in Schiewer, G.L., Altaribba, J., & Ng, B.C. (Ed.), Handbook on Language and Emotion. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter Mouton.