Dr Emma Axelsson

Dr Emma Axelsson


School of Psychology

Career Summary


My research is focussed on cognitive and social development in typically and atypically developing children. I am interested in infants’ developing representations of social categories and I investigate infants’ detection and recognition of faces and bodies. I also use eye-tracking to investigate infants’ scanning of faces and bodies as well as infants’ pupillary responses. My research also centres on the cognitive aspects of early child word learning and the role of sleep in children’s learning and memory. 


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of East London


  • Swedish (Fluent)
  • Japanese (Working)

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology 20
170102 Developmental Psychology and Ageing 60
179999 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences not elsewhere classified 20

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Psychology


Code Course Role Duration
PSYC4200 Pre-Professional Psychology 4
The University of Newcastle
Lecturer 29/07/2019 - 8/11/2019
PSYC3700 Advanced Developmental Psychology and Developmental Psychopathology
The University of Newcastle
Lecturer 25/02/2019 - 12/07/2019
PSYC1010 Psychology Introduction 1
The University of Newcastle
Lecturer 25/02/2019 - 12/07/2019


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Journal article (22 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Axelsson EL, Robbins RA, Copeland HF, Covell HW, 'Body Inversion Effects With Photographic Images of Body Postures: Is It About Faces?', Frontiers in Psychology, 10 (2019)

© Copyright © 2019 Axelsson, Robbins, Copeland and Covell. As with faces, participants are better at discriminating upright bodies than inverted bodies. This inversion effect is r... [more]

© Copyright © 2019 Axelsson, Robbins, Copeland and Covell. As with faces, participants are better at discriminating upright bodies than inverted bodies. This inversion effect is reliable for whole figures, namely, bodies with heads, but it is less reliable for headless bodies. This suggests that removal of the head disrupts typical processing of human figures, and raises questions about the role of faces in efficient body discrimination. In most studies, faces are occluded, but the aim here was to exclude faces in a more ecologically valid way by presenting photographic images of human figures from behind (about-facing), as well as measuring gaze to different parts of the figures. Participants determined whether pairs of sequentially presented body postures were the same or different for whole and headless figures. Presenting about-facing figures (heads seen from behind) and forward-facing figures with faces enabled a comparison of the effect of the presence or absence of faces. Replicating previous findings, there were inversion effects for forward-facing whole figures, but less reliable effects for headless images. There were also inversion effects for about-facing whole figures, but not about-facing headless figures. Accuracy was higher in the forward- compared to the about-facing conditions, but proportional dwell time was greater to bodies in about-facing images. Likewise, despite better discrimination of forward-facing upright compared to inverted whole figures, participants focused more on the heads and less on the bodies in upright compared to inverted images. However, there was no clear relationship between performance and dwell time proportions to heads. Body inversion effects (BIEs) were found with about-facing whole figures and headless forward-facing figures, despite the absence of faces. With inverted whole figures, there was a significant relationship between performance and greater looking at bodies, and less at heads suggesting that in more difficult conditions a focus on bodies is associated with better discrimination. Overall, the findings suggest that the visual system has greater sensitivity to bodies in their most experienced form, which is typically upright and with a head. Otherwise, the more a face is implied by the context, as in whole figures or forward- rather than about-facing headless bodies, the better the performance as holistic/configural processing is likely stronger.

DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02686
2018 Axelsson EL, Swinton J, Winiger A, Horst JS, 'Napping and toddlers' memory for fast-mapped words', FIRST LANGUAGE, 38 582-595 (2018)
DOI 10.1177/0142723718785490
Citations Scopus - 1Web of Science - 1
2018 Axelsson EL, Moore DG, Murphy EM, Goodwin JE, Clifford BR, 'The role of bodies in infants' categorical representations of humans and non-human animals', INFANT AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 27 (2018)
DOI 10.1002/icd.2112
2018 Axelsson EL, Dawson RL, Yim SY, Quddus T, 'Mine, Mine, Mine: Self-Reference and Children's Retention of Novel Words', FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY, 9 (2018)
DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00958
2017 Overs BJ, Woolfenden S, Williams K, Jalaludin B, Axelsson EL, Dissanayake C, et al., 'Predictors of developmental surveillance completion at six months of age in south western Sydney', CHILD CARE HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT, 43 307-315 (2017)
DOI 10.1111/cch.12425
Citations Scopus - 5Web of Science - 4
2017 Eapen V, Walter A, Guan J, Descallar J, Axelsson E, Einfeld S, et al., 'Maternal help-seeking for child developmental concerns: Associations with socio-demographic factors', Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 53 963-969 (2017)

© 2017 Paediatrics and Child Health Division (The Royal Australasian College of Physicians) Aim: To examine socio-demographic factors associated with maternal help-seeking for chi... [more]

© 2017 Paediatrics and Child Health Division (The Royal Australasian College of Physicians) Aim: To examine socio-demographic factors associated with maternal help-seeking for child developmental concerns in a longitudinal birth cohort study. An understanding of these factors is critical to improving uptake of services to maximise early identification and intervention for developmental concerns. Methods: A birth cohort was recruited from the post-natal wards of two teaching hospitals and through community nurses in South Western Sydney, Australia, between November 2011 and April 2013. Of the 4047 mothers approached, 2025 consented to participate (response rate = 50%). Socio-demographic and service use information was collected after the child's birth and when the child was 18 months of age. Sources of help were divided into three categories (formal health services, other formal services and informal supports) and compound variables were created by summing the number of different sources identified by mothers. Results: Significantly more sources of help were intended to be used and/or actually accessed by mothers born in Australia, whose primary language was English, with higher levels of education and annual household income, and among mothers of first-born children. Conclusions: Developmental concerns are known to increase with increased psychosocial adversity. Our findings of reduced intent to access and use of services by socio-economically disadvantaged families and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds suggests that an inverse care effect is in operation whereby those children with the greatest health needs may have the least access to services. Possible explanations for this, and recommendations for improving service accessibility for these populations through targeted and culturally appropriate services, are discussed.

DOI 10.1111/jpc.13607
Citations Scopus - 3
2016 Axelsson EL, Perry LK, Scott EJ, Horst JS, 'Near or far: The effect of spatial distance and vocabulary knowledge on word learning', ACTA PSYCHOLOGICA, 163 81-87 (2016)
DOI 10.1016/j.actpsy.2015.11.006
Citations Scopus - 3Web of Science - 3
2016 Perry LK, Axelsson EL, Horst JS, 'Learning What to Remember: Vocabulary Knowledge and Children's Memory for Object Names and Features', INFANT AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 25 247-258 (2016)
DOI 10.1002/icd.1933
Citations Scopus - 12Web of Science - 9
2016 Axelsson EL, Williams SE, Horst JS, 'The Effect of Sleep on Children's Word Retention and Generalization', FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY, 7 (2016)
DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01192
Citations Scopus - 9Web of Science - 7
2016 Woolfenden S, Eapen V, Axelsson E, Hendry A, Jalaludin B, Dissanayake C, et al., 'Who is our cohort: Recruitment, representativeness, baseline risk and retention in the "Watch Me Grow" study?', BMC Pediatrics, 16 (2016)

© 2016 Woolfenden et al. Background: The "Watch Me Grow" (WMG) study examines the current developmental surveillance system in South West Sydney. This paper describes th... [more]

© 2016 Woolfenden et al. Background: The "Watch Me Grow" (WMG) study examines the current developmental surveillance system in South West Sydney. This paper describes the establishment of the study birth cohort, including the recruitment processes, representativeness, follow-up and participants' baseline risk for future developmental risk. Methods: Newborn infants and their parents were recruited from two public hospital postnatal wards and through child health nurses during the years 2011-2013. Data was obtained through a detailed participant questionnaire and linked with the participant's electronic medical record (EMR). Representativeness was determined by Chi-square analyses of the available clinical, psychosocial and sociodemographic EMR data, comparing the WMG participants to eligible non-participants. Reasons for non-participation were also elicited. Participant characteristics were examined in six, 12, and 18-month follow-ups. Results: The number of infants recruited totalled 2,025, with 50 % of those approached agreeing to participate. Reasons for parents not participating included: lack of interest, being too busy, having plans to relocate, language barriers, participation in other research projects, and privacy concerns. The WMG cohort was broadly representative of the culturally diverse and socially disadvantaged local population from which it was sampled. Of the original 2025 participants enrolled at birth, participants with PEDS outcome data available at follow-up were: 792 (39 %) at six months, 649 (32 %) at 12 months, and 565 (28 %) at 18 months. Participants with greater psychosocial risk were less likely to have follow-up outcome data. Almost 40 % of infants in the baseline cohort were exposed to at least two risk factors known to be associated with developmental risk. Conclusions: The WMG study birth cohort is a valuable resource for health services due to the inclusion of participants from vulnerable populations, despite there being challenges in being able to actively follow-up this population.

DOI 10.1186/s12887-016-0582-1
Citations Scopus - 7
2016 Woolfenden S, Eapen V, Jalaludin B, Hayen A, Kemp L, Dissanyake C, et al., 'Prevalence and factors associated with parental concerns about development detected by the Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS) at 6-month, 12-month and 18-month well-child checks in a birth cohort', BMJ Open, 6 (2016)

Objectives: Early identification of developmental vulnerability is vital. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of moderate or high developmental risk on the Parents' E... [more]

Objectives: Early identification of developmental vulnerability is vital. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of moderate or high developmental risk on the Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS) at 6-month, 12-month and 18-month well-child checks; identify associated risk factors; and examine documentation of the PEDS at well-child checks. Design, participants: A prospective birth cohort of 2025 children with 50% of those approached agreeing to participate. Demographic data were obtained via questionnaires and linked electronic medical records. Telephone interviews were conducted with parents to collect PEDS data. Primary and secondary outcomes: Multiple logistic regression analyses identified risk factors for moderate or high developmental risk on the PEDS. A Cumulative Risk Index examined the impact of multiple risk factors on developmental risk and documentation of the PEDS at the well-child checks. Results: Of the original cohort, 792 (39%) had 6-month, 649 (32%) had 12-month and 565 (28%) had 18-month PEDS data. Parental concerns indicating moderate or high developmental risk on the PEDS were 27% (95% CI 24 to 30) at 6 months, 27% (95% CI 24 to 30) at 12 months and 33% (95% CI 29 to 37) at 18 months. Factors associated with moderate or high developmental risk were perinatal risk (OR 12 months: 1.7 (95% CI 1.1 to 2.7)); maternal Middle Eastern or Asian nationality (OR 6 months: 1.6 (95% CI 1.1 to 2.4)), (OR 12 months: 1.7 (95% CI 1.1 to 2.7)); and household disadvantage (OR 6 months: 1.5 (95% CI 1.0 to 2.2). As the number of risk factors increased the odds increased for high or moderate developmental risk and no documentation of the PEDS at well-child checks. Conclusions: Children with multiple risk factors are more likely to have parental concerns indicating.

DOI 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012144
Citations Scopus - 4
2014 Axelsson EL, Horst JS, 'Contextual repetition facilitates word learning via fast mapping', ACTA PSYCHOLOGICA, 152 95-99 (2014)
DOI 10.1016/j.actpsy.2014.08.002
Citations Scopus - 21Web of Science - 20
2014 Eapen V, Woolfenden S, Williams K, Jalaludin B, Dissanayake C, Axelsson EL, et al., '"Are you available for the next 18 months?"-methods and aims of a longitudinal birth cohort study investigating a universal developmental surveillance program: the 'Watch Me Grow' study', BMC PEDIATRICS, 14 (2014)
DOI 10.1186/1471-2431-14-234
Citations Scopus - 8Web of Science - 6
2013 Axelsson EL, Horst JS, 'Testing a word is not a test of word learning', ACTA PSYCHOLOGICA, 144 264-268 (2013)
DOI 10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.07.002
Citations Scopus - 25Web of Science - 22
2013 Axelsson EL, Hill CM, Sadeh A, Dimitriou D, 'Sleep problems and language development in toddlers with Williams syndrome', RESEARCH IN DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, 34 3988-3996 (2013)
DOI 10.1016/j.ridd.2013.08.018
Citations Scopus - 12Web of Science - 8
2013 Kushnerenko E, Tomalski P, Ballieux H, Ribeiro H, Potton A, Axelsson EL, et al., 'Brain responses to audiovisual speech mismatch in infants are associated with individual differences in looking behaviour', EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE, 38 3363-3369 (2013)
DOI 10.1111/ejn.12317
Citations Scopus - 16Web of Science - 14
2013 Tomalski P, Moore DG, Ribeiro H, Axelsson EL, Murphy E, Karmiloff-Smith A, et al., 'Socioeconomic status and functional brain development - associations in early infancy', DEVELOPMENTAL SCIENCE, 16 676-687 (2013)
DOI 10.1111/desc.12079
Citations Scopus - 80Web of Science - 77
2013 Tomalski P, Ribeiro H, Ballieux H, Axelsson EL, Murphy E, Moore DG, Kushnerenko E, 'Exploring early developmental changes in face scanning patterns during the perception of audiovisual mismatch of speech cues', EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY, 10 611-624 (2013)
DOI 10.1080/17405629.2012.728076
Citations Scopus - 20Web of Science - 19
2012 Axelsson EL, Churchley K, Horst JS, 'The right thing at the right time: why ostensive naming facilitates word learning', FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY, 3 (2012)
DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00088
Citations Scopus - 36Web of Science - 33
2010 Franklin A, Catherwood D, Alvarez J, Axelsson E, 'Hemispheric asymmetries in categorical perception of orientation in infants and adults', NEUROPSYCHOLOGIA, 48 2648-2657 (2010)
DOI 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.05.011
2010 Moore DG, Turner JD, Parrott AC, Goodwin JE, Fulton SE, Min MO, et al., 'During pregnancy, recreational drug-using women stop taking ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine) and reduce alcohol consumption, but continue to smoke tobacco and cannabis: initial findings from the Development and Infancy Study', JOURNAL OF PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY, 24 1403-1410 (2010)
DOI 10.1177/0269881109348165
Citations Scopus - 47Web of Science - 47
2007 Moore DG, Goodwin JE, George R, Axelsson EL, Braddick FMB, 'Infants perceive human point-light displays as solid forms', COGNITION, 104 377-396 (2007)
DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2006.07.007
Citations Scopus - 27Web of Science - 24
Show 19 more journal articles

Conference (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2005 Goodwin JE, Braddick FMB, Turner JJD, Moore DG, Toplis AS, Axelsson EL, et al., 'Patterns of recreational drug use during pregnancy', JOURNAL OF REPRODUCTIVE AND INFANT PSYCHOLOGY (2005)
2003 Fox HC, Braddick FMB, Toplis AS, Axelsson EL, Turner JJD, Parrott AC, 'Ecstasy polydrug users show markedly similar cognitive neuropsychological profiles to normal healthy volunteers with artificially reduced 5-HT systems', JOURNAL OF PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY, CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND (2003)

Dr Emma Axelsson


School of Psychology
Faculty of Science

Contact Details

Email emma.axelsson@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4055 3008


Room W255
Building Behavioural Sciences
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308