Carlson receives 2022 Mary Ainsworth Award for Excellence in Developmental Science from APA Division 7

Stephanie Carlson, PhD

Stephanie Carlson, PhD, a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Institute of Child Development (ICD), has received the 2022 Mary Ainsworth Award for Excellence in Developmental Science from Division 7 of the American Psychological Association. 

The Ainsworth award recognizes excellence in scholarship and contributions to developmental science in areas including research, student training, and other scholarly endeavors. Recipients are chosen based on the scientific merit of their work, the impact of their work on opening up new empirical or theoretical areas of developmental psychology, and how their work links developmental psychology with other disciplines. 

Dr. Carlson is an internationally recognized leader in the study of executive function – or the set of skills that helps individuals focus attention, control impulses and think flexibly – and is co-director of the Developmental Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at ICD. Through her research, Carlson has developed innovative ways of measuring executive function in very young children. She has also made discoveries about the role of executive function in other aspects of human development, including decision-making and social-emotional skills. Currently, her research focuses on how best to promote executive function through reflective practices in play, parenting, and preschool curricula.

Her accomplishments include co-developing the Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS), a testing app that measures executive function and early learning readiness in children as young as two years old and has been nationally normed on over 50,000 youth. To help put the tool in the hands of early educators, she co-founded the tech start-up Reflection Sciences. She also has advised local and national organizations such as Sesame Workshop,, Noggin, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, and the Minnesota Children’s Museum. She explains the environmental influences on executive function development in a recent TEDx Minneapolis talk.