Dr Andrew Simpson

Senior Lecturer
Department of Psychology
Dr Andrew Simpson



Andrew SImpson's original undergraduate degree was in genetics from the University of Sheffield, and he obtained a PhD in molecular biology from Queens' College, Cambridge in 1990. He worked in London for seven years at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (now DEFR) as a science advisor and administrator. This included work on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy ('Mad Cow Disease') and agricultural biotechnology ('Frankenstein Foods'). At the same time, Andrew studied for a BSc in Psychology at Birkbeck College, London. He then trained to be a primary school teacher before returning to academia. Andrew worked as a Research Assistant at London Guildhall University and then as a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham. While at Birmingham, Andrew started a part-time PhD in cognitive development, which he completed in 2005. He later also lectured part-time at London Metropolitan University, before joining the academic staff at the University of Essex in 2008. Andrew married Susan Roper in 1998, and they have two daughters - Ruby and Matilda.


  • BSc in Genetics, University of Sheffield (1986).

  • PhD on 'The role of High Mobility Group protein HMG2a in Chromatin Struture', Queens' College, Cambridge (1990).

  • BSc in Psychology, Birkbeck College, London (1998).

  • PhD on 'Investigating the factors that determine the inhibitory demands of developmental tasks', University of Birmingham (2005).

Research and professional activities

Research interests

The emergence of inhibitory control in children. Inhibitory control is the capacity to regulate our thoughts, behaviour and emotions, and so take charge of our own lives.

I study the early development of inhibitory control. Inhibitory control is the ability to alter familiar patterns of thinking and behavior, as well as to resist temptation. As an adult, for example, you can use inhibitory control when deciding to take a new approach to dealing with a difficult member of your family, or when resisting the temptation to eat food which you think is unhealthy. Inhibitory control is crucial to the way that we take charge of our own lives. It is one of the most valued human abilities. In Western cultures, most of us want to be in control of our lives, even if what we would do with that control differs for each of us. Psychologists have been studying Inhibitory control, in its various forms, for about 50 years. It is clear from this research that inhibitory control is very useful. Adults with good inhibitory control have lives that are happier, more successful and fulfilled. For children too, good inhibitory control brings benefits. For example, good inhibitory control is actually more important than intelligence when it comes to doing well at school. I am studying how inhibitory control emerges. We know that it improves across the whole of childhood from infancy to adolescence, although there is usually a big leap-forward at the end of the ‘terrible twos’. I am trying to understand what it is that actually changes when inhibitory control improves. Is it like a ‘hand’ in the mind that comes down and stops thinking, or is it more of a coping strategy that we use to face life’s challenges. I am also really interested in what determines the need for inhibitory control, and in how children can be helped when their inhibitory control fails.

Key words: Child development

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Developmental Psychology (PS406)

  • Psychopathology (PS504)

  • Making connections: How children develop (PS507)

  • Advanced Developmental Psychology (PS931)

Previous supervision

Qian Sun
Qian Sun
Thesis title: Acculturation Gaps and Adjustment of Migrant Children and Families
Degree subject: Psychology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 21/12/2020
Stuart Paul Lipscombe
Stuart Paul Lipscombe
Degree subject: Psychology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 24/4/2020
Abbie Clare Millett
Abbie Clare Millett
Thesis title: A Critical Examination of Spontaneous Perspective Taking.
Degree subject: Psychology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 21/11/2019
Reshaa Fahad S Alruwaili
Reshaa Fahad S Alruwaili
Thesis title: 'The Early Childhood Development of Inhibitory Control, Motor Control and Drawing Skills'
Degree subject: Psychology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 3/5/2019
Katarzyna Agnieszka Kostyrka-Allchorne
Katarzyna Agnieszka Kostyrka-Allchorne
Thesis title: Examining the Short-Term Effects of Video Exposure on Children's Attention and Other Cognitive Processes.
Degree subject: Psychology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 29/1/2018
Grace Lee Hyde
Grace Lee Hyde
Thesis title: Using a Fast Mapping Approach to Investigate Children's Learning About Artefacts
Degree subject: Psychology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 4/7/2016
Marielle Martine Upson
Marielle Martine Upson
Thesis title: Children's Familiarity with a Behaviour Affects Their Ability to Inhibit It: Evidence From Naming and Acting on Artefacts.
Degree subject: Psychology
Degree type: Master of Science (by Dissertation)
Awarded date: 13/5/2015
Lisa Phillips
Lisa Phillips
Thesis title: Decoding and Encoding of Emotional Prosody in Children
Degree subject: Psychology
Degree type: Master of Science (by Dissertation)
Awarded date: 20/1/2015
Mark Andrew Atkinson
Mark Andrew Atkinson
Thesis title: Attention to Human Movement: Visual Orienting During Joint Action
Degree subject: Psychology
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 16/4/2014


Journal articles (44)

Simpson, A., Lipscombe, S. and Carroll, DJ., (2022). Why are some inhibitory tasks easy for preschool children when most are difficult? Testing two hypotheses. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 220, 105431-105431

Holmboe, K., Larkman, C., de Klerk, C., Simpson, A., Bell, MA., Patton, L., Christodoulou, C. and Dvergsdal, H., (2021). The early childhood inhibitory touchscreen task: A new measure of response inhibition in toddlerhood and across the lifespan. PLoS One. 16 (12), e0260695-e0260695

Carroll, DJ., Blakey, E. and Simpson, A., (2021). Can We Boost Preschoolers’ Inhibitory Performance Just by Changing the Way They Respond?. Child Development. 92 (6), 2205-2212

Sun, Q., Geeraert, N. and Simpson, A., (2020). Never Mind the Acculturation Gap: Migrant Youth’s Wellbeing Benefit when They Retain Their Heritage Culture but Their Parents Adopt the Settlement Culture. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 49 (2), 520-533

Kostyrka‐Allchorne, K., Cooper, NR., Simpson, A. and Sonuga‐Barke, EJS., (2020). Children’s mental health and recreation: Limited evidence for associations with screen use. Acta Paediatrica. 109 (12), 2648-2655

Simpson, A., Al Ruwaili, R., Jolley, R., Leonard, H., Geeraert, N. and Riggs, KJ., (2019). Fine Motor Control Underlies the Association Between Response Inhibition and Drawing Skill in Early Development. Child Development. 90 (3), 911-923

Kostyrka-Allchorne, K., Cooper, NR. and Simpson, A., (2019). Disentangling the effects of video pace and story realism on children’s attention and response inhibition. Cognitive Development. 49, 94-104

Simpson, A. and Carroll, DJ., (2019). Understanding early inhibitory development: distinguishing two ways that children use inhibitory control. Child Development. 90 (5), 1459-1473

Kostyrka-Allchorne, K., Cooper, NR., Kennett, S., Nestler, S. and Simpson, A., (2019). The Short-Term Effect of Video Editing Pace on Children’s Inhibition and N2 and P3 ERP Components during Visual Go/No-Go Task. Developmental Neuropsychology. 44 (4), 385-396

Kostyrka-Allchorne, K., Holland, A., Cooper, NR., Ahamed, W., Marrow, RK. and Simpson, A., (2019). What helps children learn difficult tasks: A teacher's presence may be worth more than a screen. Trends in Neuroscience and Education. 17, 100114-100114

Atkinson, MA., Simpson, AA. and Cole, GG., (2018). Visual attention and action: How cueing, direct mapping, and social interactions drive orienting. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. 25 (5), 1585-1605

Simpson, A. and Carroll, DJ., (2018). Young children can overcome their weak inhibitory control, if they conceptualize a task in the right way. Cognition. 170, 270-279

Holland, AK., Hyde, G., Riggs, KJ. and Simpson, A., (2018). Preschoolers fast map and retain artifact functions as efficiently as artifact names, but artifact actions are the most easily learned. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 170, 57-71

Atkinson, MA., Millett, AC., Doneva, SP., Simpson, A. and Cole, GG., (2018). How social is social inhibition of return?. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics. 80 (8), 1892-1903

Kostyrka-Allchorne, K., Cooper, NR. and Simpson, A., (2017). Touchscreen generation: children's current media use, parental supervision methods and attitudes towards contemporary media. Acta Paediatrica. 106 (4), 654-662

Kostyrka-Allchorne, K., Cooper, NR., Gossmann, AM., Banks, KJ. and Simpson, A., (2017). Differential effects of film on preschool children's behaviour dependent on editing pace. Acta Paediatrica. 106 (5), 831-836

Kostyrka-Allchorne, K., Cooper, NR. and Simpson, A., (2017). The relationship between television exposure and children's cognition and behaviour: A systematic review. Developmental Review. 44, 19-58

Whitaker, LR., Simpson, A. and Roberson, D., (2017). Brief Report: Is Impaired Classification of Subtle Facial Expressions in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Related to Atypical Emotion Category Boundaries?. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 47 (8), 2628-2634

Simpson, A., Upson, M. and Carroll, DJ., (2017). Where does prepotency come from on developmental tests of inhibitory control?. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 162, 18-30

Cox, S., Chandler, C., Simpson, A. and Riggs, K., (2016). The effect of alcohol dependence on automatic visuo-spatial perspective taking. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 166, 21-25

Holland, AK., Mather, E., Simpson, A. and Riggs, KJ., (2016). Get Your Facts Right: Preschoolers Systematically Extend Both Object Names and Category-Relevant Facts. Frontiers in Psychology. 7

Riggs, KJ., Mather, E., Hyde, G. and Simpson, A., (2015). Parallels Between Action-Object Mapping and Word-Object Mapping in Young Children. Cognitive Science

Holland, A., Simpson, A. and Riggs, KJ., (2015). Young children retain fast mapped object labels better than shape, color, and texture words. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 134, 1-11

Atkinson, M., Simpson, A., Skarratt, PA. and Cole, G., (2014). Is social inhibition of return due to action corepresentation?. Acta Psychologica. 150, 85-93

Simpson, A., Carroll, DJ. and Riggs, KJ., (2014). Prepotency in action: Does children?s knowledge of an artifact affect their ability to inhibit acting on it?. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 118, 127-133

Simpson, A. and Carroll, DJ., (2014). What’s so special about verbal imitation? Investigating the effect of modality on automaticity in children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 121, 1-11

Simpson, A., Cooper, NR., Gillmeister, H. and Riggs, KJ., (2013). Seeing triggers acting, hearing does not trigger saying: Evidence from children?s weak inhibition. Cognition. 128 (2), 103-112

Cooper, NR., Simpson, A., Till, A., Simmons, K. and Puzzo, I., (2013). Beta event-related desynchronization as an index of individual differences in processing human facial expression: further investigations of autistic traits in typically developing adults. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 7 (159), 159-

Riggs, KJ., Jolley, RP. and Simpson, A., (2013). The role of inhibitory control in the development of human figure drawing in young children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 114 (4), 537-542

Simpson, A., Riggs, KJ., Beck, S., Gorniak, S., Wu, Y. and Abbott, D., (2012). Refining the understanding of inhibitory processes: how response prepotency is created and overcome. Developmental Science. 15 (1), 62-73

Simpson, A. and Riggs, K., (2011). Three and 4-year olds encode modelled actions in two way leading to immediate imitation and delayed emulation.. Developmental Psychology. 47 (3), 834-840

Simpson, A. and Riggs, KJ., (2011). Under what conditions do children have difficulty in inhibiting imitation? Evidence for the importance of planning specific responses. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 109 (4), 512-524

Riggs, KJ., Simpson, A. and Potts, T., (2011). The development of visual short-term memory for multifeature items during middle childhood. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 108 (4), 802-809

Simpson, A. and Riggs, KJ., (2009). What makes responses prepotent for young children? Insights from the grass-snow task. Infant and Child Development. 18 (1), 21-35

Simpson, A. and Riggs, KJ., (2007). Under what conditions do young children have difficulty inhibiting manual actions?. Developmental Psychology. 43 (2), 417-428

Simpson, A. and Riggs, KJ., (2006). Conditions under which children experience inhibitory difficulty with a "button-press" go/no-go task. Journal of experimental child psychology. 94 (1), 18-26

Riggs, KJ., McTaggart, J., Simpson, A. and Freeman, RPJ., (2006). Changes in the capacity of visual working memory in 5- to 10-year-olds. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 95 (1), 18-26

Apperly, IA., Riggs, KJ., Simpson, A., Chiavarino, C. and Samson, D., (2006). Is Belief Reasoning Automatic?. Psychological science. 17 (10), 841-844

Riggs, KJ., Ferrand, L., Lancelin, D., Fryziel, L., Dumur, G. and Simpson, A., (2006). Subitizing in Tactile Perception. Psychological science. 17 (4), 271-272

Simpson, A. and Riggs, KJ., (2005). Factors responsible for performance on the day-night task: response set or semantics?. Developmental Science. 8 (4), 360-371

Riggs, KJ. and Simpson, A., (2005). Young children have difficulty ascribing true beliefs. Developmental Science. 8 (3), F27-F30

Leeson, VC., Simpson, A., McKenna, PJ. and Laws, KR., (2005). Executive inhibition and semantic association in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia research. 74 (1), 61-67

Simpson, A. and Riggs, KJ., (2005). Inhibitory and working memory demands of the day-night task in children. British Journal of Developmental Psychology. 23 (3), 471-486

Simpson, A., Riggs, KJ. and Simon, M., (2004). What makes the windows task difficult for young children: rule inference or rule use?. Journal of experimental child psychology. 87 (2), 155-170

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