Professor Dawn Watling

Personal profile

I came to Royal Holloway in 2005 after completing my DPhil and post-doctoral work at the University of Sussex. I am director of the Social Development Lab. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and a Chartered Psychologist. I am a member of the BPS Developmental Section and the BPS Biopsychology Section.

Research interests

Much of my research explores children's and adolescents' social development with a focus on how they learn to navigate through our social world, and developing an understanding of what factors may influence behaviour. I am particularly interested in how children understand the complexities of impression management, both in face to face situations and online. Further, I am interested in how children recognise emotions. Within each, I explore how individual differences in personal factors (e.g., social anxiety, depression, mood, etc.) may be associated (or impact) behaviour.

I am increasingly interested in what influences children's well-being and mental health. I have been working with charities to evaluate their materials, designed to support children's development and well-being (e.g., Fagus  and Eikon) and have established interdisciplinary collaborations to evaluate how engagement in nature can impact well-being. Most recently, I have established a new Research Collaboration with Wakehurst, Kew's Royal Botantic Gardens working on the Nature Unlocked programme to assess the role of biodiversity and connection to nature with wellbeing and mental health. 

My work has been funded by Leverhulme Trust, British Academy, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and RBG Kew.

Editorial Work

I am an editorial board member for the British Journal of Developmental Psychology


I teach on the following courses:

  • PS1040 Lifespan Development
  • PS2040 Developmental Psychology

RHUL Teaching Awards

  • Individual RHUL Teaching Prize (for the development Personal Advisor Summary System; 2014)
  • Team Teaching Prize (Fostering the engagement of students with research; 2016)
  • Team Teaching Prize (Establishing transparency and inclusivity in accessing and developing research experience, 2022)

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