Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology, University of Bristol

My core research area is cognitive development, focusing on creative play in early development, including humour, pretending, and creativity more broadly. This research topic has strong links to education as two of the three characteristics of effective teaching and learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage are (1) playing and exploring, and (2) creating and thinking critically (Department for Education, 2017). While this research area is central to education, there is surprisingly little experimental, quantitative research on creativity in early development. One way in which my research fills this gap is by using experimental, quantitative methods to discover that toddlers can think for themselves, through divergent thinking (generating many different ideas within a problem space) as young as 1 year (Bijvoet-van den Berg & Hoicka, 2014, Developmental Psychology; Hoicka, et al., 2016, Child Development), by inventing their own novel jokes as young as 2 years (Hoicka & Akhtar, 2011, Developmental Science), and by inventing their own acts of pretending from 3 years (Bijvoet-van den Berg & Hoicka, submitted). Furthermore, my research suggests humour and pretending have separate roles in education. While pretending might prime children to learn in a strict rule-like way, humour might prime children to allow creativity (Hoicka & Martin, 2016, Child Development). My work also ties social learning and creativity together, with several of my papers suggesting young children can socially learn to think creatively (Hoicka & Akhtar, 2011; Hoicka, et al., 2016; Hoicka, et al., in press, British Journal of Developmental Psychology).

Screen time has come under the spotlight recently, with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending no screen time under 18 months, and only one hour with an adult until 5 years. However, the research on touchscreen use, compared to television, is sparse. I am supervising two PhD students (Birsu Kandemirci, Stephanie Powell) who are examining the effects of touchscreens on creativity with tools and objects, as well as creativity through storytelling.


  • –present
    Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology, University of Bristol


    Cardiff University, Psychology