John S. Watson
Professor Emeritus
Ph.D., Cornell University
Research Area: 
Research Interests: 
Development in infancy, evolution of psychological processes in artificial life
  • whatshotResearch Description
    Professor Watson studies the role of contingency perception in the socio-emotional and cognitive development of human infants. He also studies Rett Syndrome and the evolution of psychological functions (e.g. purposive intentionality) in artificial life.
  • placeSelected Publications
    Contingency Perception:

    Watson, J. S. (1966). The development and generalization of `contingency awareness' in early infancy: Some hypotheses. Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 12, 123-135.

    Watson, J. S. (1967). Memory and 'contingency analysis' in infant learning. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 13, 55-76.

    Watson, J. S. (1972). Smiling, cooing, and 'The Game.' Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 18, 323-339.

    Watson, J. S. (1979). Perception of contingency as a determinant of social responsiveness. In E. B. Thoman (Ed.), The Origin of the infant's Social Responsiveness. New York: Erlbaum. Pp. 33 64.

    Watson, J. S. (1981). Contingency experience in behavioral development. In K. Immelmann, G. W. Barlow, L. Petrinovich, and M. Main (Eds.) Behavioral Development: The Bielefeld Interdisciplinary Project. New York: Cambridge University Press. Pp.83 89.

    Watson, J. S. (1984). Memory in learning: Analysis of three momentary reactions of infants. In R. Kail and N. Spear (Eds.) Comparative Perspectives on the Development of Memory, Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc. Pp. 159 179.

    Watson, J. S. (1985). Contingency perception in early social development. In T. M. Field and N. A. Fox (Eds.) Social Perception in Infants, Norwood, N. J.: Ablex Pub. Corp., Pp. 157 176.

    Bahrick, L. E. & Watson, J. S. (1985). Detection of intermodal proprioceptive visual contingency as a potential basis of self perception in infancy. Developmental Psychology, 21, 963 973.

    Watson, J. S. (1987). La memoire dans la petite enfance. In J. Piaget, P. Mounoud, and J. Bronckart (Eds.) Encyclopedie de la Pleiade: Psychologie. Paris: Gallimard. 462 495.

    Watson, J. S. (1994). Detection of self: The perfect algorithm. In S. T. Parker, R. W Mitchell, and M. L. Boccia (Eds.) Self-awareness in animals and humans: Developmental perspectives. New York: Cambridge U. Press. Pp. 131-148.

    Watson, J. S. (1995). Mother infant interaction: Dispositional properties and mutual designs. In N. S. Thompson (Ed.) Perspectives in ethology, Vol. 11: Behavioral design, Plenum Press, New York, NY. 1995. pp. 189 210.

    Watson, J. S. (1995). Self orientation in early infancy: The general role of contingency and the specific case of reaching to the mouth. In P. Rochat, (Ed.) The self in infancy: Theory and research. Advances in psychology, North Holland/Elsevier Science Publishers, Amsterdam, Netherlands. pp. 375 393.

    Gergely, G. and Watson, J. S. (1996). The social biofeedback theory of parental affect-mirroring: The development of emotional self awareness and self-control in infancy. International Journal of Psycho-analysis, 77, 1181-1212.

    Watson, J S. (1997). Contingency and its two indices within conditional probability analysis. Behavior Analyst, 20, 129-140

    Gergely, G. and Watson, J. S. (1999). Early social-emotional development: Contingency perception and the social-biofeedback model. In P. Rochat (Ed.). Early Socialization. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

    Watson, J. S., Gergely, G., Csanyi, V., Topal, J., Gacsi, M., and Sarkozi, Z. (2001). Distinguishing logic versus association in the solution of an invisible displacement task by children and dogs: Using negation of disjunction. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 115, 219-226.

    Watson. J. S. (2001). Contingency perception and misperception in infancy: Some potential implications for attachment. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 65, 296-320.

    Gergely, G., Coos, O., and Watson, J.S. (2002). Contingency perception and the role of contingent parental reactivity in early socio-emotional development: Some implications for developmental psychopathology. In: J. Nadel and J. Decety (Eds.), Imitation, Action et Intentionalite. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

    Watson, J. S. (2005). Learning theories. In B. Hopkins (Ed.) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Child Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 70-76.

    Watson, J. S. (2005). Causal logic and the intentional stance. In G. Origgi and A. Reboul (Moderators) Causality: Internet Conference at

    Watson, J. S. (2005). The elementary nature of purposive behavior: Evolving minimal neural structures that display intrinsic intentionality. Evolutionary Psychology, 3, 24-48. ( )

    Watson, J. S. (in press). "Einstein's baby" could infer intentionality. Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

    Object Perception:

    Watson, J. S. (1966). Perception of object orientation in infants. Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 12, 73 94.

    Watson, J. S. & Danielson, G. (1969). An attempt to shape bidimensional attention in 24 month old infants. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 7, 467 478

    Watson, J. S., Banks, M. S., von Hofsten, C., and Royden, C. S. (1992). Gravity as a monocular cue for perception of absolute distance and/or size. Perception, 21, 69-76.

    Rett Syndrome:

    Watson, J. S., Umansky, R., Marcy, S. and Repacholi, B. (1996). Intention and preference in a 3-year-old girl with Rett Syndrome. Journal of applied developmental psychology,17, 69-84.

    Watson, J. S., Umansky, R., Marcy, S., Johnston, C. and Repacholi, B. (1996). Behavioral competition in a case of Rett syndrome. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 17, 553-57.

    Umansky, R. and Watson, J. S (1998). Influence of eye movements on Rett stereotypies: Evidence suggesting a stage-specific regression. Journal of Child Neurology, 13, 15 8-162

    Umansky, R., Watson, J. S., Hoffbuhr, K., Painter, K. M., Devaney, J., and Hoffman, E. (2001). Social Facilitation of Object-Oriented Hand Use in a Rett Syndrome Variant Girl: Implications for Partial Preservation of an Hypothesized Specialized Cerebral Network. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 22, 119-122.

    Umansky, R., Watson, J.S., Colvin, L., Fyfe, S., Leonard, S., de Klerk, N., and Leonard, H. (2003). Hand preference, extent of laterality, and functional hand use in Rett syndrome. Journal of Child Neurology, 18, 481-487.

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