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Maria Hopkins.

Director, Undergraduate Program
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CH 415
(205) 975-9456

Research and Teaching Interests: Social-emotional development in children, Autism Spectrum Disorders

Office Hours: By appointment


  • M.A., University of Alabama at Birmingham, Developmental Psychology
  • Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham, Developmental Psychology

A native of Stockholm, Sweden, Professor Hopkins studies social and emotional development in children. She also serves as the director of the psychology undergraduate program at UAB.

Dr. Hopkins teaches courses in developmental psychology, social development, research methods and the Psychology Capstone. She is the faculty advisor for the UAB Chapter of Psi Chi, the Psychology Honor Society, which aims to get psychology students connected on campus and in the community.

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  • Research Interests

    Dr. Hopkins is a developmental psychologist whose research is focused on social development in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She is particularly interested in issues of emotion recognition and social cognition. Her research has been funded by foundations including the Civitan International Research Center.

    Her early research directly addressed emotional development in children with autism and other developmental disorders. These projects found that children with autism, in particular, had difficulties recognizing emotions in pictures and schematic drawings. She also documented that children with autism had particular difficulties recognizing emotions from the upper part of the face (eye-region), but demonstrated equal recognition abilities to typically developing children when asked to identify emotions from the lower part of the face.

    In addition, Dr. Hopkins and colleagues have investigated a computerized gaming platform — “FaceSay” — designed to teach specific social skills such as joint attention, holistic face processing, and facial recognition abilities to children with autism. She has documented the effectiveness of this computer-based social skills intervention for children with autism in a series of studies.

    She is currently working on a project to investigate a social robot for children with autism. Recent research suggests the value of using robots to improve social communication. Researchers investigating robots as tools for therapy in ASD have reported increased engagement, increased levels of attention, and novel social behaviors (i.e., turn-taking, imitation, joint attention) when robots are part of the social interaction. The current series of studies are investigating a novel social robot, or Socially Animated Machine (SAM), which consists of a unique mix of anthropomorphic and non-humanoid features.

  • Recent Courses
    • Honors Introduction to Psychology
    • Introduction to Psychology
    • Developmental Psychology
    • Research Methods
    • Social Development
    • Infant Development
    • Psychology Capstone
  • Graduate Students
    • Jenna Lebersfeld
    • Sarah Koch
  • Select Publications
    • Hopkins, I.M., Gower, M.W., Perez, T.A., Smith, D.S., Amthor, F.R., & Biasini, F.J. (2011). Avatar assistant: Enhancing facial processing skills through a computer-based intervention. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(11), 1543-55.
    • Hopkins, M., (2005). An investigation of children with fragile x syndrome and/or autism and their ability to recognize facial expressions of emotions. The Foundation Quarterly 21.
    • Koch, S.A., Stevens, C., Clesi, C., McNew, M.E., Parker, A.G., Hopkins, M.I., Amthor, F.R., Biasini, F.J. (May 2015). Socially Animated Machine (SAM): A Novel Design for Robotic Research in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Presented at IMFAR, Salt Lake City, Utah.
    • Hopkins, M., Koch, S.A., & Biasini, F.J. (June 2014). Social Skills Intervention Using Interactive Technologies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, Copenhagen, Denmark.
    • Gower, M.W., Koch, S.A., Johnson, H.D., Hopkins, M., Amthor, F.R., & Biasini, F.J. (May, 2014). Eye-gaze Patterns during Live Social Interactions in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, Atlanta, GA.
    • Hopkins, M. (June, 2010) Improving Social Skills in Children using Computer Games. Seminar presented at the World Summit on Media for Children and Youth, Karlstad, Sweden.
  • Academic Distinctions and Professional Societies
    • American Psychological Society
  • Student Groups