Professor David Williams

Professor of Developmental Psychology,
Deputy Director, Division of Human Social Sciences
+44 (0)1227 827652
Professor David Williams


David is Deputy Director (Resources) of the Division of Human Social Sciences and a Professor of Developmental Psychology in the School of Psychology.

Research interests

David's research focuses on various forms of developmental psychopathology, including autism spectrum disorder and specific language impairment. He is interested in understanding the nature and neuro-cognitive bases of developmental disorders, as well as what these disorders tell us about typical development. Primarily, David uses cognitive-experimental techniques, among typical and atypical populations, to investigate topics, such as:

  • The typical and atypical development of episodic memory and episodic future thinking
  • Prospective memory in autism spectrum disorder
  • Metacognition (awareness of own mental states and cognitive activity) and mindreading (awareness of others’ mental states and cognitive activity), and the relation between them
  • The development and function of inner speech use
  • Comorbidity in developmental disorders

For David's research into metacognition in autism spectrum disorder, he was given the prestigious 2010 Young Investigator award by the International Society for Autism Research.  David is Associate Editor of the journals Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Autism and Developmental Language Impairments


PG students

Past research students

  • Aimilia Kallitsounaki 
  • Mahsa Barzy (Leverhulme Trust): Imagining the self in fictional worlds: evidence from Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Katie Carpenter (ESRC +3)
  • Louise Malkin (Research Scholarship (PhD) in Developmental Psychology 2020): The development of referential communication in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Dr Maria Zajaczkowska: Ironic versus non-ironic relevance inferencing: a comparison of typical children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (2020) (2nd supervisor)
  • Dr Julia Landsiedel: Prospective memory in children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (2018)
  • Dr Catherine Grainger: Metacognition in autism
  • Dr Emma Grisdale: The typical and atypical development of self awareness


  • Associate Editor of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder:
  • Associate Editor of Autism and Developmental Language Impairments
  • Guest editor for a special issue on "the coherence of autism" for Autism: International Journal of Research Practice
  • Editor of the forthcoming Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of developmental psychopathology
  • Editorial board member of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
  • Editorial board member of Autism: International Journal of Research and Practice

Grants and Awards

Date Award Details Amount
2022-2025 Markers of autism and gender incongruence in children (MAGIC): Cognition in autistic and non-autistic gender-incongruent children and their families (PI: ESRC grant) £661,196
2018-22 Development of childhood perfectionism: Early indicators and parental factors (Leverhulme Trust Research Grant; Co-I with Michael Forrester; PI = Joachim Stoeber) £298,259
2015-19 Leverhulme Trust: 'Imagining the self in fictional worlds: evidence from Autism Spectrum Disorder' (Co-l with Heather Ferguson) £225,482
2015-18 Metacognition and Mindreading: One system or two? (PI: ESRC grant) £322,536
2015-16 Comedy on the spectrum: Exploring humour production in adolescents with autism (Co-I: British Academy Small Research Grant) £7,849
2014-15 The Beacon Institute: Illuminating Arts and Science Research and Practice (Co-I: University of Kent 50th anniversary grant) £100,000
2011-12 Time-based and Event-based Prospective Memory in Autism: The Roles of Executive Function and Theory of Mind (PI: ESRC grant ES/HO47247/1) £98,895
2009-11 Exploring inner speech and cognitive inflexibility in autism (PI: City University London Independent Research Fellowship) -
2007-08 Novel approaches to the study of self-awareness, with special reference to inner speech (PI: ESRC Fellowship ES/F016638/1) £11
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