Ageliki Nicolopoulou is currently Associate Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in the Psychology Department at Lehigh University. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1984. Since then, she has held research appointments at the City University of New York/Graduate Center and the University of California at San Diego (in the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition), and has taught at UC San Diego, Smith College, and (since 1996) at Lehigh University.


I am a sociocultural developmental psychologist with a range of research interests that include the role of narrative in development, socialization, and education; the influence of the peer group and peer culture as social contexts for children's cognitive, socio-emotional, personality, and moral development; the relationship between play and narrative; the foundations of emergent literacy; and the developmental interplay between the construction of reality and the formation of identity, including gender identity.

The larger agenda that unifies and directs these lines of research is to contribute to the effort to build up a more effective sociocultural developmental psychology. This has involved a close and systematic integration of theoretical and empirical work. I have consistently argued that psychological research needs to situate development more effectively in its sociocultural contexts, including institutional and cultural frameworks, but without ignoring children's own agency and the inner processes of development. And one requirement for doing this successfully is to rethink, refine, and broaden researchers' conceptions of the "social context" of development to encompass, not just direct adult-child (or expert-novice) interaction, but also peer-group processes, including modes of genuine peer collaboration and the ways that children, like adults, create, maintain, and participate in fields of shared activity that provide both resources and motivations for development. Methodologically, my empirical research combines quantitative, interpretive, and ethnographic analysis, primarily using data obtained in naturalistic settings.

One long-term line of research has focused on children's narrative activities and their role in development. This research addresses both (a) narrative development per se (the development of narrative competence and sophistication) and (b) the role of narrative in the overall process of development, including cognitive, socio-emotional, and personality development. Much of this work has been based on my studies of middle-class and low-income preschool classes (in California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania) where a peer-oriented practice of spontaneous storytelling and story-acting is a regular component of the curriculum. Over time, it has become increasingly clear that this research also has significant implications for understanding the foundations of emergent literacy and the role of peers in children's development, socialization, and education. These issues are central to my large-scale multi-year study, undertaken in collaboration with the Philadelphia Head Start Program, to examine the effectiveness of this storytelling and story-acting practice for promoting key components of young children's school readiness: narrative skills (and the broader cluster of decontextualized language skills); emergent literacy; and social competence (including capacities for cooperation, self-regulation, and social understanding). One element of this project is constructing a standardized, developmentally appropriate, and culturally sensitive measurement instrument with which to comprehensively assess the narrative abilities of preschool children from disadvantaged and culturally diverse backgrounds.

A recurrent theme in my work has been the need for developmental research to pay more systematic attention to the interrelations of play and narrative in children's experience and development. They should be treated as complementary and often closely interwoven forms of socially situated symbolic action. I am presently the Guest Editor of a forthcoming special issue of Cognitive Development on the subject of "Play and Narrative in the Process of Development: Commonalities, Differences, and Interrelations."


My Departmental Webpage (including links to some publications)
Developmental/Narrative Lab
Psychology Department Web Site
Psychology Graduate Program - Introduction
Psychology Graduate Program
Lehigh University Web Site
The Narrative Consortium
The Jean Piaget Society