Philip David Zelazo

Nancy M. and John E. Lindahl Professor
Ph.D. (distinction), 1993, Yale University

Institute of Child Development
170 ChDev
51 East River Pkwy


Developmental cognitive neuroscience; executive function; consciousness; rule use; self and social understanding; EEG/ERP; neuroimaging; affective decision making; problem solving; cultural differences in cognitive development; thought and language.

The Zelazo Lab

Professor Zelazo studies the development and neural bases of executive function, or the conscious control of thought, action, and emotion. He does so using a variety of approaches, from experimental to cross-cultural to electrophysiological (EEG/ERP), and his work has focussed on a number of influential ideas, including the notion that the executive function depends, in part, on the development of the ability to use increasingly complex, higher-order rules (formulated in self-directed speech)—part of the Cognitive Complexity & Control theory; the notion that consciousness develops through a series of “levels” in which information is reprocessed via thalamo-cortical circuits involving prefrontal cortex (the Levels of Consciousness model)—with consequences for the quality of subjective experience, and the potential for recall, rule complexity, and cognitive control; and the importance of the distinction between more “cool,” cognitive aspects of executive function typically associated with dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DL-PFC) vs. more “hot,” affective aspects associated with more ventral and medial regions of PFC (e.g., orbitofrontal cortex; OFC).

Selected Publications

  1. Kesek, A., Cunningham, W. A., Packer, D. J., & Zelazo, P. D. (2011). Indirect goal priming is more powerful than explicit instruction in children. Developmental Science, 14, 944-948.

  2. Prencipe, A., Kesek, A., Cohen, J., Lamm, C., & Zelazo, P. D. (2011). Development of hot and cool executive function during the transition to adolescence. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 108, 621-637.

  3. Zelazo, P. D., Paus, T. (2010). Developmental social neuroscience: An introduction. Social Neuroscience, 5, 417-421. 

  4. Lahat, A., Todd, R. M., Mahy, C. E. V., & Zelazo, P. D. (2010). Neurophysiological correlates of executive function: a comparison of European-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian 5-year-old children. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 3:72, 1-10. Doi: 10.3389/neuro.09.072.2009 

  5. Dixon, M. L., Zelazo, P. D., & De Rosa, E. (2010). Evidence for intact memory-guided attention in school-aged children. Developmental Science, 13, 161-169.

  6. Cunningham, W. A., &  Zelazo, P. D. (2010). The development of iterative reprocessing: Implications for affect and its regulation. In P. D. Zelazo, M. Chandler, & E. A. Crone (Eds.). Developmental social cognitive neuroscience (pp. 81-98). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

  7. Zelazo, P. D., Qu, L., & Kesek, A. C. (2010). Hot executive function: Emotion and the development of cognitive control. In S. D. Calkins & M. A. Bell (Eds.), Child development at the intersection of emotion and cognition (pp. 97-111).  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

  8. Séguin, J. R., Parent, S., Tremblay, R. E., & Zelazo, P. D. (2009). Different neurocognitive functions regulating physical aggression and hyperactivity in early childhood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 679-687.

  9. Marcovitch, S., & Zelazo, P. D. (2009). A hierarchical competing systems model of the emergence and early development of executive function (Target article with commentaries). Developmental Science. 12, 1-18.

  10. Zelazo, P. D., Carlson, S. M., and Kesek, A. (2008). Development of executive function in childhood.  In C. A. Nelson, & M. Luciana (Eds.), Handbook of developmental cognitive neuroscience, 2nd ed. (pp. 553-574). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  11. Crone, E. A., Bullens, L., van der Plas, E. A. A., Kijkuit, E. J., & Zelazo, P. D. (2008). Developmental changes and individual differences in risk and perspective taking in adolescence. Development and Psychopathology, 20, 1213-1229.

  12. Lewis, M. D., Granic, I., Lamm, C., Zelazo, P. D., Stieben, J., Todd, R. M., Moadab, I., & Pepler, D. (2008). Changes in the neural bases of emotion regulation associated with clinical improvement in children with behavior problems. Development and Psychopathology, 20, 913-939.

  13. Marcovitch, S., Jacques, S., Boseovski, J. J., & Zelazo, P. D. (2008). Self-reflection and the cognitive control of behavior: Implications for learning. Mind, Brain, and Education, 2, 136-141.

  14. Todd, R., Lewis, M., Muesel, L-A., & Zelazo, P. D. (2008). The time course of emotion processing in early childhood: ERP responses to affective stimuli in a Go-Nogo task. Neuropsychologia, 46, 595-613.