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Professor David Messer

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am an Emeritus Professor at the Open University, an Honorary Professor at City University, London (Language and Communication Sciences) and a Visiting Professor at London South Bank University (Psychology).  

Professional activities have included:

Academic Consultant to the BBC1/OU co-production Child of Our Time 

Membership  of the following British Psychological Society committees: Education Board; Research Board, and Publications & Communications Board.

Membership of the Following Editorial Boards, First Language and Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology.

Reviser of AQA GSCE, AS, and A level Psychology, as well as AEA Psychology

President of the British Psychological Society Developmental Psychology Section.  Media Relations Officer of Developmental Section.  Conference Organiser for: Child Langauge Seminar, Society for Reproduction and Infant Psychology.


Research interests

My current research interests concern:

1) interests in the way technology can be used to assist language and literacy development this has involved the development of an app (Our Story, see and an evaluation of a computer based tutorial system developed by Oxford Learning Solutions using 'trainertxt' for children with literacy difficulties (see

2) children’s communication and language, particularly children with communication difficulties, such as problems with Word-Finding (WFDs) and Specific Language Impairment (SLI).                                                                                                                                      

3) children’s cognitive development, particularly the progression from implicit to explicit thinking, exectutive functioning and inner speech.

I also have interests in: autism, prospective memory and children’s sleeping.

Current external funding:

I am a member of a team, mostly based at Linkoping University, Sweden, that is investigating the predictors of decoding and reading comprehension in people with intellectual disabilities (Samuelsson, S., Danielsson, H., Elwér, A., Messer, D., & Henry, L.C.).  Funded by Swedish Research Council. £670,000. 

I am also a member of a team that is evaluating a computer based intervention to help children with pragmatic language difficulties.  The team involves Murphy, S. (University of Bedfordshire), Crafter, S. (Open University), Joffe, V. (City University), Messer, D. (Open University), Torgerson, D. (York University), Corbacho, B. (York University), Fairhusrt, C. (York University), Madhani, N. (NE London NHS Foundation Trust). Funded by NIHR £250,000.

Another research project involves Henry, L.C., Messer, D.J., Poloczek, S., & Danielsson, H. and is concerned with 'Language, literacy and procedural memory in children and adolescents with intellectual disabiliities'.   Bailey Thomas, Charitable Fund, £101,924, 2018-2020.

Teaching interests

I was a member of the course team for ED840, Child Development in Families, Schools and Society. This course is taken by postgraduates studying for the MA in Education, Advanced Diploma in Child Development and as an optional course in the MSc in Psychology.

I was part of the production team for ED814 Understanding Children's Development and Learning which has replaced ED840

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG)GroupInstitute of Educational Technology
CREET: Child and Youth Studies Research ClusterGroupFaculty of Education and Language Studies


Me and my veggies: The use of interactive, personalised picture books in healthy eating interventions (2020-03)
Dulay, K. M.; Masento, N. A.; Harvey, K.; Messer, D. J. and Houston‐Price, C.
Nutrition Bulletin, 45(1) (pp. 51-58)

Evaluating ‘Enhancing Pragmatic Language skills for Young children with Social communication impairments’ (E-PLAYS): Protocol for a feasibility study (2019-06-08)
Murphy, Suzane; Joffe, V, Victoria; Messer, David; Crafter, Sarah; Radley, Jessica; Sunthararajah, Sailaa; Bell, Kerry; Corbacho, Belen; Fairhurst, Caroline; Rogers, Sara; Torgerson, David and Welch, Charlie
Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 5, Article 75

Delays in the reading and spelling of children with cerebral palsy: Associations with phonological and visual processes (2019-02-28)
Critten, Valerie; Messer, David and Sheehy, Kieron
Research in Developmental Disabilities, 85 (pp. 131-142)

Is being a young researcher always a positive learning experience? (2019)
Kerawalla, Lucinda and Messer, David
Interdisciplinary Education and Psychology, 2, Article 5(2)

Do children use different forms of verbal rehearsal in serial picture recall tasks? A multi-method study (2019)
Poloczek, Sebastian; Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David J. and Büttner, Gerhard
Memory, 27(6) (pp. 758-771)

Evaluating the effectiveness of an educational programming intervention on children’s mathematics skills, spatial awareness and working memory (2018-11)
Messer, David; Thomas, Lucy; Holliman, Andrew and Kucirkova, Natalia
Education and Information Technologies, 23(6) (pp. 2879-2888)

Visual perception, visual-spatial cognition and mathematics: Associations and predictions in children with cerebral palsy (2018-09)
Critten, Valerie; Campbell, Emma; Farran, Emily and Messer, David
Research in Developmental Disabilities, 80 (pp. 180-191)

An Exploration of the Factor Structure of Executive Functioning in Children (2018-07-13)
Messer, David; Bernardi, Marialivia; Botting, Nicola; Hill, Elisabeth L.; Nash, Gilly; Leonard, Hayley C. and Henry, Lucy A.
Frontiers in Psychology: Cognition, 9, Article 1179

An evaluation of the effectiveness of a computer-assisted reading intervention (2018-02)
Messer, David and Nash, Gilly
Journal of Research in Reading, 41(1) (pp. 140-158)

What young people report about the personal characteristics needed for social science research after carrying out their own investigations in an after-school club (2018)
Kerawalla, Lucinda and Messer, David J.
Educational Studies, 44(3) (pp. 326-340)

Work placements at 14-15 years and employability skills (2018)
Messer, David
Education + Training, 60(1) (pp. 16-26)

Verbal and Non-verbal Fluency in Adults with Developmental Dyslexia: Phonological Processing or Executive Control Problems? (2017-08)
Smith-Spark, James H.; Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David J. and Zięcik, Adam P.
Dyslexia, 23(3) (pp. 234-250)

Do measures of memory, language, and attention predict eyewitness memory in children with and without autism? (2017-01-01)
Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David J.; Wilcock, Rachel; Nash, Gilly; Kirke-Smith, Mimi; Hobson, Zoe and Crane, Laura
Autism & Developmental Language Impairments, 2

Strategic verbal rehearsal in adolescents with mild intellectual disabilities: A multi-centre European study (2016-11)
Poloczek, Sebastian; Henry, Lucy A.; Danielson, Henrik; Büttner, Gerhard; Mähler, Claudia; Messer, David J.; Schuchardt, Kirsten and van der Molen, Mariët J.
Research in Developmental Disabilities, 58 (pp. 83-93)

The Effect of Maltreatment Type on Adolescent Executive Functioning and Inner Speech (2016-11)
Kirke-Smith, Mimi; Henry, Lucy A. and Messer, David
Infant and Child Development, 25(6) (pp. 516-532)

The relation between executive functioning, reaction time, naming speed, and single word reading in children with typical development and language impairments (2016-09-01)
Messer, David; Henry, Lucy A. and Nash, Gilly
British Journal of Educational Psychology, 86(3) (pp. 412-428)

Developmental delays in phonological recoding among children and adolescents with Down syndrome and Williams syndrome (2016-08-01)
Danielsson, Henrik; Henry, Lucy; Messer, David; Carney, Daniel P.J. and Rönnberg, Jerker
Research in Developmental Disabilities, 55 (pp. 64-76)

Executive functions in adults with developmental dyslexia (2016-06)
Smith-Spark, James H.; Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David J.; Edvardsdottir, Elisa and Zięcik, Adam P.
Research in Developmental Disabilities, 53-54 (pp. 323-341)

A Vygotskian perspective on parent-child talk during iPad story sharing (2015-11-30)
Kucirkova, Natalia; Sheehy, Kieron and Messer, David
Journal of Research in Reading, 38(4) (pp. 428-441)

Executive functioning and verbal fluency in children with language difficulties (2015-10)
Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David J. and Nash, Gilly
Learning and instruction, 39 (pp. 137-147)

New directions for early literacy in a digital age: the iPad (2015-09)
Flewitt, Rosie; Messer, David and Kucirkova, Natalia
Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 15(3) (pp. 289-310)

Story-making on the iPad when children have complex needs: two case studies (2014-11)
Kucirkova, Natalia; Messer, David; Critten, Val and Harwood, Jane
Communication Disorders Quarterly, 36(1) (pp. 44-54)

Executive functioning: developmental consequences on adolescents with histories of maltreatment (2014-09)
Kirke-Smith, Mimi; Henry, Lucy and Messer, David
British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 32(3) (pp. 305-319)

The effects of personalization on young children's spontaneous speech during shared book reading (2014-09)
Kucirkova, Natalia; Messer, David and Sheehy, Kieron
Journal of Pragmatics, 71 (pp. 45-55)

Reading personalized books with preschool children enhances their word acquisition (2014-06)
Kucirkova, Natalia; Messer, David and Sheehy, Kieron
First Language, 34(3) (pp. 227-243)

Children's engagement with educational iPad apps: insights from a Spanish classroom (2014-02-28)
Kucirkova, Natalia; Messer, David; Sheehy, Kieron and Fernandez-Panadero, Carmen
Computers & Education, 71 (pp. 175-184)

Touching the virtual, touching the real: iPads and enabling literacy for students with learning disabilities. (2014)
Flewitt, Rosie; Kucirkova, Natalia and Messer, David
Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 37(2) (pp. 107-116)

Sharing personalized stories on iPads: a close look at one parent-child interaction (2013-11)
Kucirkova, Natalia; Messer, David; Sheehy, Kieron and Flewitt, Rosie
Literacy, 47(3) (pp. 115-122)

Children with word finding difficulties: continuities and profiles of abilities (2013)
Messer, David and Dockrell, Julie
First Language, 33(5) (pp. 433-448)

Using developmental trajectories to examine verbal and visuospatial short-term memory development in children and adolescents with Williams and Down syndromes (2013)
Carney, Daniel P. J.; Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David; Dannielsson, Henrik; Brown, Janice H. and Rönnberg, Jerker
Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(10) (pp. 3421-3432)

Testing for near and far transfer effects with a short, face-to-face adaptive working memory training intervention in typical children (2013)
Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David J. and Nash, Gilly
Infant and Child Development, 23(1) (pp. 84-103)

Revealing children's implicit spelling representations (2012-06)
Critten, Sarah; Pine, Karen J. and Messer, David J.
British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 31(2) (pp. 198-211)

Strengths and weaknesses in executive functioning in children with intellectual disability (2012-04)
Danielsson, Henrik; Henry, Lucy; Messer, David and Rönnberg, Jerker
Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33(2) (pp. 600-607)

Parents reading with their toddlers: the role of personalisation in book engagement (2012)
Kucirkova, Natalia; Messer, David and Whitelock, Denise
Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 13(4) (pp. 445-470)

Phonological, visual and semantic coding strategies and children’s short-term picture memory span (2012)
Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David; Luger-Klein, Scarlett and Crane, Laura
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65(10) (pp. 2033-2053)

Phonological and visuospatial short-term memory in children with specific language impairment (2012)
Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David J. and Nash, Gilly
Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 11(1) (pp. 45-56)

Research review: Childhood maltreatment and executive functioning during adolescence (2012)
Kirke-Smith, Mimi; Henry, Lucy and Messer, David
Adolescent Psychiatry, 2(3) (pp. 211-220)

Family characteristics and long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse (2011-11)
Bhandari, Suchitra; Winter, David; Messer, David and Metcalfe, Chris
British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 50(4) (pp. 435-451)

Executive functioning in children with specific language impairment (2011-01)
Henry, Lucy A.; Messer, David J. and Nash, Gilly
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53(1) (pp. 37-45)

Lexical access and literacy in children with word-finding difficulties (2011)
Messer, David and Dockrell, Julie
International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 46(4) (pp. 473-480)

Sharing personalised books: a practical solution to the challenges posed by home book reading interventions (2010-09)
Kucirkova, Natalia; Messer, David and Whitelock, Denise
Literacy Information & Computer Education Journal, 1(3) (pp. 263-272)

Television alcohol advertising: Do children really mean what they say? (2009)
Nash, Avril S.; Pine, Karen J. and Messer, David J.
British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27(1) (pp. 85-104)

Children's behaviour and cognitions across different balance tasks (2008-02-02)
Messer, David J.; Pine, Karen J. and Butler, Cathal
Learning and Instruction, 18(1) (pp. 42-53)

Morphosyntax in children with word finding difficulties (2008)
Murphy, V. A.; Dockrell, J. E.; Messer, D. and Farr, H.
Journal of Child Language, 35(3) (pp. 703-720)

Language profiles and naming in Children with word finding difficulties (2007-10)
Dockrell, Julie E. and Messer, David
Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 59(6) (pp. 318-323)

A microgenetic analysis of the relationship between speech and gesture in children: Evidence for semantic and temporal asynchrony (2007-02)
Pine, Karen J.; Lufkin, Nicola; Kirk, Elizabeth and Messer, David
Language and Cognitive Processes, 22(2) (pp. 234-246)

Growing up with TV (2007-01)
Oates, John and Messer, David
The Psychologist, 20(1) (pp. 30-32)

Speeded naming, frequency and the development of the lexicon in Williams syndrome (2006-09)
Messer, David; Dockrell, Julie; Parmigiani, Charlotte and Karmiloff-Smith, Annette
Language and Cognitive Processes, 21 (pp. 721-759)

Children's Naming and Word-Finding Difficulties: Descriptions and Explanations (2006-04-01)
Messer, David and Dockrell, Julie E.
Journal of Speech, Hearing and Language Research, 49(2) (pp. 309-324)

Comparative optimism about health and nonhealth events in 8- and 9-Year-old children (2005-05)
Albery, Ian P. and Messer, David
Health Psychology, 24(3) (pp. 316-320)

Routine examination of the newborn: the EMREM study. Evaluation of an extension of the midwife role including a randomised controlled trial of appropriately trained midwives and paediatric senior house officers (2005-01)
Townsend, J.; Wolke, D.; Hayes, J.; Dave, S.; Rogers, C.; Bloomfield, L.; Quist-Therson, E.; Tomlin, M. and Messer, D.
International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care, 21(1) (pp. 146-147)

Relation between naming and literacy in children with Word-finding difficulties (2004-09)
Messer, David; Dockrell, Julie E. and Murphy, Nicola
Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(3) (462 -470)

The development of representations as children learn about balancing (2003-06)
Pine, K. and Messer, D.
British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 21(2) (pp. 285-301)

Beyond naming patterns in children with WFDs (2003)
Dockrell, J.; Messer, D.; George, R. and Ralli, A.
Journal of Neuropsychology, 16 (pp. 191-211)

A connectionist account of Spanish determiner production (2003)
Smith, Pamela; Nix, Andrew; Davey, Neil and Messer, David
Journal of Child Language, 30(2) (pp. 305-331)

The use of a co-operative student model of learner characteristics to configure a multimedia application (2002-06)
Barker, Trevor; Jones, Sara; Britton, Carol and Messer, David
User Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction, 12(2-3) (pp. 207-241)

Do children with autism who pass false belief tasks understand the mind as active interpreter? (2002-04)
Luckett, T.; Powell, S. D.; Messer, D.; Thornton, M. E. and Schulz, J.
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(2) (pp. 127-140)

Children's learning from contrast modelling (2002)
Pine, K. J.; Messer, D. J. and St. John, K.
Cognitive Development, 17(2) (pp. 1249-1263)

Gender and social comparison effects in computer-based problem solving (2000)
Light, Paul; Littleton, Karen; Bale, Stuart; Joiner, Richard and Messer, David
Learning and Instruction, 10(6) (pp. 483-496)

Complete Psychology, Second Edition (2008-05-30)
Davey, Graham; Albert, Ian P.; Chandler, Chris; Jones, Dai; Stirling, Chris; Messer, David J. and Moore, Simon
ISBN : 9780340967553 | Publisher : Hodder Education | Published : London, UK

Investigating the effectiveness of the Our Story App to increase children’s narrative skills: Lessons learnt from one English preschool classroom (2019-05-06)
Kucirkova, Natalia; Messer, David J. and Sheehy, Kieron
In: Veneziano, Edy and Nicolopoulou, Ageliki eds. Narrative, Literacy and Other Skills: Studies in intervention. Studies in Narrative (25) (pp. 265-281)
ISBN : 9789027262912 | Publisher : John Benjamins

Working memory and intellectual disabilities (2018)
Henry, Lucy A,; Messer, David J. and Poloczek, Sebastian
In: Packiam Alloway, Tracy ed. Working Memory and Clinical Developmental Disorders: Theories, Debates and Interventions (pp. 9-21)
ISBN : 978-1-315-30206-5 | Publisher : Routledge

Digital and new technologies: Research tools and questions (2016-06-03)
Messer, David and Kucirkova, Natalia
In: Prior, Jess and Van Herwegen, Jo eds. Practical Research with Children (pp. 264-284)
ISBN : 9781138937888 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Deti ako autori vlastnych kniziek na ipadoch: Hl'Adanie strednej cesty(Children as authors of their own iPad books: searching for a balance (2012)
Kucirkova, Natalia; Messer, David and Sheehy, Kieron
In: Miňová, Monika ed. Predprimárne vzdelávanie v súčasnosti (pp. 285-298)
ISBN : 978-80-555-0703-3 | Publisher : Presovska univerzita v Presove, Pedagogic fakulta. Slovensky vybor Svetovej organizacie pre predskolsku vychovu | Published : Presove, Slovakia

Prospective memory in children: Methodological issues, empirical findings and future directions (2007)
Kvavilashvili, L.; Kyle, F. and Messer, D. J.
In: Kliegel, Matthias; McDaniel, Mark A. and Einstein, Gilles O. eds. Prospective Memory: Cognitive, Neuroscience, Developmental, and Applied Perspectives (pp. 115-140)
ISBN : 978-0-8058-5858-7 | Publisher : Erlbaum | Published : UK

Current perspectives in language acquisition (2005-12-13)
Messer, David
In: Peccei, Jean Stilwell ed. Child Language: a Resource Book for Students. Routledge English Language Introductions (pp. 110-118)
ISBN : 978-0-415-28103-4 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

An introduction to developmental psychology (2004-05-28)
Messer, David
In: Davey, Graham ed. Complete Psychology (pp. 282-298)
ISBN : 9780340815687 | Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton | Published : London

Cognitive development : thinking, information and representations (2004-05-28)
Messer, David
In: Davey, Graham ed. Complete Psychology (pp. 299-320)
ISBN : 978-0340815687 | Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton | Published : London

Communication, language and literacy (2004-05-28)
Messer, David
In: Davey, Graham ed. Complete Psychology (pp. 321-339)
ISBN : 978-0340815687 | Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton | Published : London

The self, others and social relationships (2004-05-28)
Messer, David
In: Davey, Graham ed. Complete Psychology (pp. 340-360)
ISBN : 978-0340815687 | Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton | Published : London

Lexical acquisition in the early school years (2004)
Dockrell, Julie E. and Messer, David A.
In: Berman, Ruth A. ed. Language Development across Childhood and Adolescence. Trends in Language Acquisition Research Series (3) (pp. 35-52)
ISBN : 9781588115829 | Publisher : John Benjamins Publishing Company | Published : Amsterdam, Netherlands

Processes of development in early communication (2003-08-06)
Messer, David
In: Bremner, Gavin and Slater, Alan eds. Theories of Infant Development (pp. 284-316)
ISBN : 9780631233374 | Publisher : Blackwell | Published : Oxford