May 2022 Spotlight, Yang Yang, Ph.D.

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Yang Yang ( as our member in the spotlight. Dr. Yang is a Research Scientist at the Centre for Research in Child Development at National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

  1. Can you write a couple sentences on some aspect of your career development: feel free to pick one or any other related question among these: a) what drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? b) who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field? c) any particular advice or tips to someone starting out in the field who is doing work in your area? 

My research interest in cross-cultural studies on children’s social and emotional development started when I was in college in Beijing, China. I worked on a project about Canadian and Chinese children’s social behaviors lead by Dr. Xinyin Chen and Dr. Li Wang. I enjoyed watching videos of preschoolers’ interactions and coding their social behaviors. Soon after that I joined the master program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. In a lab led by Dr. Hirokazu Yoshikawa, I worked on a project about U.S. and Chinese children’s social emotional development. At the same time, I worked as a research assistant on another project on Asian and European American infants’ temperament and parent-child interactions, mentored by Dr. Cindy Liu and Dr. Edward Tronick at Boston Children’s Hospital. Both projects make me think about the importance of cultural contexts in child development and parent-child interaction. After completing my master’s degree, I was fascinated by a series of studies on Chinese and American mother-child conversations and children’s emotion knowledge conducted by Dr. Qi Wang, so I pursued a PhD under her supervision at Cornell University, where I received systematic training on cross-cultural and developmental research. Furthermore, under Dr. Elizabeth Bonawitz’s mentorship, I explored children’s learning and parent-child interaction as a postdoc associate. I continue to study children’s emotion understanding, emotional wellbeing, emotion socialization, and learning at National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

  • A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it.  Feel free to describe its importance from any one or more of these lenses: a) research contribution; b) our knowledge about Asian or Asian American populations; c) our knowledge about other [understudied?] populations; d) practice or policy relevance. 

Previous cross-cultural research on children’s emotional development has revealed that Chinese and Chinese American parents tend to make fewer references to emotions and other mental states during their conversation with children than did European American parents. As a result, Chinese and Chinese American children had a lower level of emotion knowledge (understanding the causes of certain emotions) than their European American counterparts during preschool years and early middle childhood. It seems that Chinese or Chinese American children understand emotions later. However, in a recent study published in Child Development, which I coauthored with Dr. Qi Wang and Dr. Li Wang, we found that Chinese children are more sensitive to recognize emotional cues from vocal tones in speech than European American children. The findings provide the first demonstration of cultural influences on children’s sensitivity to emotional cues in speech and delineate a more complete picture of affective cognitive processes during development.

  • Any upcoming talks or presentations we should know about?

We will present a study on Singaporean children’s emotion recognition and academic skills at an upcoming conference in Singapore called Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference 2022. In addition, in the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development Biennial Meeting 2022, we will present data from the U.S, China, and Singapore on children’s sensitivity to emotional cues in speech.

  • What is your preferred contact email?

  • A weblink you prefer to share?



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