Prof. Carolien Rieffe, PhD

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Carolien Rieffe received her MSc Degree with Honours in Psychological Methodology from the University of Amsterdam, which included an exchange program on scholarship to Hofstra University (New York, USA); she earned her PhD from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 1998 and worked there as an Assistant Professor. She had a tenured position at the Institute of Education University of London, UK as Assistant Professor (2001-2004), until she started at Leiden University in 2004 as an Associate Professor. From 2010-2020 the Dutch Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Child (NSDSK, Amsterdam) installed an endowed chair for Carolien at Leiden University, where she then became Professor by Special Appointment in Social and Emotional Development. Since 2015, Carolien has serves as Honorary Professor at UCL, University of London, UK. She also serves as Full Professor at Twente University since September 2020.

Carolien is Primary Investigator of the Focus on Emotions research lab at the Department of Developmental Psychology at Leiden University, chair of the Honours College advisory board at Leiden University, member of the LCDS (Leiden Center for Data Science), and member of several committees at the national level, including the Female Autism Network of the Netherlands and the Dutch National Autism Congress. She also works or has worked in longstanding close collaborations with professional organizations that include NSDSK, Kentalis, ENT-LUMC (Leiden University Medical Center), Center for Autism, INTER-PSY, the Anne Frank Foundation, and many academic institutions abroad.


A is for Autism Awareness

April 2nd, 2021

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April is World Autism Acceptance Month, and April 2nd marks International Autism Awareness Day. First designated by the United Nations back in 2008, every year, this is the time to promote public awareness and acceptance of autism and the different phenotypes in males and females; and also address global efforts on research and activities enhancing acceptance of the diversity within Autism, thus defying stereotypes. Click here to read a blog on autistic high schoolers and how they may utilise “weak ties” socially; and click here to find out how autistic students can find safe spaces at school. These articles reveal how autistic students can navigate social inclusion in the school environment, taking into account the huge diversity of social goals within the population.

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Thank you Lisa!

February 26th, 2021

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Today at the end of February 2021, sending our sincere words of thanks and love to Lisa, who is leaving our Focus on Emotions lab. Lisa has been a valued member of our team for over two years and made numerous contributions to the ongoing projects. She is a bright character as a colleague and as a friend, who is always thoughtful and willing to provide support. 


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New project in the works

February 22nd, 2021

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Our new master student Claudia Libbi (University of Twente) aims to design a serious game for girls with autism for a hands-on experience of navigating different (difficult) peer interactions whilst staying calm. Kick off meeting with Els Blijd (lnter-Psy) and Carolien ( Human Media Interaction , University of Twente) to discuss which steps to take and whom to involve.



How do children with hearing loss “read” emotional faces and social information? New papers now online!

January 5th, 2021

little boy with magnifying glassUnderstanding emotions from other people’s faces and from social situations is essential for daily social interaction. But how is that for children with hearing loss? Can they learn to understand emotions just as easily as hearing children?Through a collaboration between Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Otorhinolaryngology (LUMC and Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital Taiwan), Yung-Ting’s unique eye-tracking studies show that daily "exposure" in the social environment in which emotions take place is essential for the development of this aspect of emotional intelligence. The results are now published in Emotion and Ear & Hearing


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Recent & Upcoming Events

April 15th: Kids First Congress

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March 19th: National Autism Congress

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December 17th 9.30 (CET): Webinar DHH Children’s Social-emotional Development (听损儿童社会情绪机能与发展)

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Play in Portuguese preschool children with hearing loss

March 26th, 2021


March 25, Brenda presented at the International Congress of Early Childhood Outdoor Practices on play in Portuguese preschool children with hearing loss in mainstream or special schools. 

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Social Inclusion Workshop

March 19th, 2021

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March 19th, at the 20th National Autism Congress, Carolien presented a workshop on social inclusion for pupils with autism. Focus was on issues that pupils with autism had identified during focus group meetings. Their input is essential in developing “autism-welcome” schools.

Welcome to our new PhD candidate Jiayin Zhao

February 17th, 2021

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Jiayin received her China Government Scholarship (CSC) in 2020 and started in our lab January 2021. She will be under the supervision of Carolien and Boya. Jiayin’s thesis focuses on social-emotional functioning in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Congratulations Jiayin and welcome.

Who are we?

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Our team is located at the department of Developmental Psychology of Leiden University and at the Human Media Interaction at the technical University of Twente, both in the Netherlands. We work in close collaboration with the ENT department of the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), the mental health organisations INTER-PSY (Groningen) and Curium-LUMC, the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS), and TU Delft. Our group is dedicated to examining the development of emotional intelligence of children and adolescents from a very young age; with a strong focus on its impact on children's social development. Besides typically developing children and adolescents, we are interested in the development of those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH), with autism, or with a Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). Currently, we have an ongoing project on social inclusion at schools that utilises sensor technology with DHH and autistic children. Since 2017, our team has also been working in close collaboration with a centre for DHH children in China.

On this site we will post regular news items about new publications, events, and other important news. You can also read more about our ongoing projects, read about/download questionnaires we have developed, peruse the list of our publications per topic, or learn about opportunities for students to join our team.