My research program focuses on two main questions:

What do infants understand about emotions?

There is much disagreement surrounding the nature of emotion concepts in the first two years of life. Using behavioral measures, my research explores how preverbal infants perceive, categorize, and understand others’ emotional expressions. I have found that early emotion knowledge is more complex and nuanced than we previously thought.

How do children learn about emotions?

Emotion understanding undergoes developmental change throughout childhood, but little is known about the mechanisms behind this change. My research explores how supervised learning (language-dependent) and unsupervised learning (language-independent) mechanisms influence emotion concept development in infancy and early childhood.

Selected Publications

Do preverbal infants understand discrete facial expressions of emotion?

Ruba & Repacholi (in press)

Can preverbal infants match negative emotional expressions to events?

Ruba, Meltzoff, & Repacholi (2019)

Can preverbal infants form categories of negative facial expressions?

Ruba, Johnson, Harris, & Wilbourn (2017)

Can children learn about others’ emotions through observation?

Repacholi, Meltzoff, Spiewak Toub, & Ruba (2016)


How does language influence children's emotion categorization?

Ruba, Meltzoff, & Repacholi (invited revision)