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Dr Mary Hanley

Associate Professor

BSc, PhD Psychology

AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Associate Professor in the Department of PsychologyL62+44 (0) 191 33 43239
Fellow of Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing +44 (0) 191 33 43239


Research Interests

My primary research interest is in understanding atypical social behaviour in children and adults neurodevelopmental disorders, especially Autism and Williams syndrome. Many individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders experience social vulnerability because of their unique profiles of strengths and difficulties, and I try to understand the factors that contribute. I am particularly interested in the social perceptual and cognitive mechanisms that underlie social behaviour. For example, along with behavioural measures, I use a variety of eye tracking techniques to understand the role of atypical social attention. However, it is not possible to fully understand social behaviour without understanding the interaction with other domains of functioning. With that in mind, I am particularly interested in understanding anxiety and sensory processing in neurodevelopmental disorders (linking to Liz Jones and Emily Grew’s PhD research). Indeed, these are areas that families often require urgent support with.

All of the issues mentioned above have impact in the classroom. I am also very interested in how attention abilities, social perception, sensory issues and anxiety can impact learning and achievement for children with and without neurodevelopmental disorders (linking to Emily Grew’s PhD research), and also for adults with autism at University (linking to Emine Gurbuz’s PhD research).

Through the Centre for Developmental Disorders (for which I am the Associate Director), I work to ensure that my research has impact with the groups, organisations and families for which it is most relevant. For example, by delivering parent workshops on anxiety and producing (as part of a team) booklets on ‘Anxiety in Williams Syndrome’ which have been distributed throughout the UK, Ireland, the USA and France.


Research interests

  • Social Attention and Social Cognition
  • Eye tracking
  • Williams Syndrome
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Sensory processing

Research groups

Awarded Grants

  • 2015: Increasing Awareness of Anxiety in Williams syndrome - A Support Package for Teachers(£5661.00 from Autours des Williams)
  • 2014: Increasing Awareness of Anxiety in Williams Syndrome - A Support Package for Parents and Education(£4134.00 from Williams Syndrome Foundation)
  • 2013: Using Eye Tracking to Explore Visual Distraction in the Classroom for Pupils with Autism(£9994.00 from The British Academy)

Esteem Indicators

  • 2018: Seattle Club Conference: Co-organiser:
  • 2014: Conference Co-organiser: Neurodevelopmental Disorders Annual Seminar :
  • Invited Seminar, Department of Experimental Psychology Oxford University:
  • Invited Seminar, Kingston University:
  • Invited Talk, Japanese Society for Williams Syndrome:


Chapter in book

  • Hanley, M (Accepted). Eye-tracking and neurodevelopmental disorders: evidence from cross-syndrome comparisons. In Neurodevelopmental disorders: Research issues and solutions. Riby, D.M. & Van Herwegen,J Psychology Press.

Journal Article

Supervision students