skip to primary navigation skip to content

Dave Neale


ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow

E-mail Address


+ 44 (0)1223 767699


  • PhD, University of Cambridge
  • MEd, University of Cambridge

Membership of Professional Bodies/Associations

  • Cognitive Development Society
  • European Association for Research in Learning and Instruction
  • Economic & Social Research Council (UK) Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2018 – 2019
  • National Science Foundation (USA) Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2017 – 2018
  • Economic & Social Research Council (UK) PhD Studentship, 2012 – 2016
  • Cambridge Philosophical Society Fellowship, 2016
  • Economic & Social Research Council (UK) Postgraduate Fellowship at the UK Houses of Parliament, 2015
  • British Psychological Society Postgraduate International Study Award, 2014

Back to top


Dave’s research interests revolve around how play relates to learning, particularly in infancy and early childhood. He was awarded his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2017, for which he studied mothers’ play interactions with their 1- to 2-year-old infants. From August 2017 to August 2018 he was part of Roberta Golinkoff’s Child’s Play, Learning & Development Lab at the University of Delaware.

In addition to his research, he has acted as a consultant on play and learning for The LEGO Foundation and Skylark Learning Ltd., and given research advice or briefings to the US Military Operations Research Society and the UK Houses of Parliament.

Academic Area/Links

Back to top

Research Topics

  • Play and category learning
  • Structured play and games as learning tools
  • Play in infancy and early childhood

Current Research Project(s)

  • Mother-infant play research: Implications for policy & practice
  • Behavioural and neural synchrony in mother-infant play
  • Parent-infant play and category learning

Back to top

Course Involvement

  • Supervising on the Education, Psychology & Learning track of the Education Tripos.

Back to top

Principal and Recent Publications

Pino-Pasternak D., Whitebread, D., & Neale, D. (in press). The role of social, dialogical and regulatory dynamics on young children’s productive collaboration in group problem solving. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development.

Neale, D.*, Morano, C.*, Verdine, B., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R. (in press). ‘Why are there big squares and little squares?’ How questions reveal children’s understanding of a domain. In The Questioning Child, L. P. Butler, S. Ronfard & K. H. Corriveau (Eds.), Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Zosh, J., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Hopkins, E. J., Jensen, H., Liu, C., Neale, D., Solis, S. L., & Whitebread, D. (2018). Accessing the inaccessible: Redefining play as a spectrum. Frontiers in Psychology, 9:1124.

Neale, D., Basilio, M., & Whitebread, D. (2018). The Grasping Task: A 12-month predictor of 24-month delay task performance and BRIEF-P Inhibition scores. Infant and Child Development, 27(4).

Neale, D., Clackson, K., Georgieva, S., Dedetas, H., Scarpate, M., Wass, S. & Leong, V. (2018). Towards a neuroscientific understanding of play: A dimensional coding framework for analyzing infant-adult play patterns. Frontiers in Psychology, 9:273.

Neale, D. & Pino-Pasternak, D. (2017). A review of reminiscing in early childhood settings and links to sustained shared thinking. Educational Psychology Review, 29(3), 641-665.

Whitebread, D., Neale, D., Jensen, H., Liu, C., Solis, L., Hopkins, E. J., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Zosh, J. M. (2017).
The role of play in children's development: a review of the evidence. The LEGO Foundation, Billund, Denmark.

Liu, C., Solis, L., Jensen, H., Hopkins, E. J., Neale D., Zosh, J. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Whitebread, D. (2017).
Neuroscience and learning through play: a review of the evidence. The LEGO Foundation, Billund, Denmark.

Zosh, J. M., Hopkins, E. J., Jensen, H., Liu, C., Neale, D., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Solis, L., & Whitebread, D. (2017).
Learning through play: a review of the evidence. The LEGO Foundation, Billund, Denmark.

Neale, D. (2015). Defending the logic of significance testing: a response to Gorard. Oxford Review of Education, 41(3), 334-345.