School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Professor Michael Pluess


Professor of Developmental Psychology, Head of Psychology Department

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8004
Room Number: Room 2.01, Fogg Building


Research Interests:

I’m a chartered psychologist and reader in developmental psychology spending most of my day researching how environmental experiences shape the course of psychological development across the life course.

The predominant part of my research deals with questions related to Developmental Plasticity, the understanding that experiences while growing up affect developmental outcomes. More specifically, I’m interested in individual differences in the capacity for such developmental plasticity as a function of different individual characteristics (e.g., genetic variants, personality traits etc.), a notion brought forward in the Differential Susceptibility (Belsky & Pluess, 2009) and Vantage Sensitivity (Pluess & Belsky, 2013) frameworks. 

According to Differential Susceptibility reasoning individuals differ fundamentally in the degree they are affected by environmental influences regarding their psychological development: Some people are generally more and some less influenced not only by negative but also by positive environmental influences. Most of my work falls in one of three areas:

  • Developmental Plasticity

    My research regarding the effects of environmental influences and experiences and the moderation thereof includes the study of environmental influences as early as the fetal period, but also quality of care in early childhood and experiences in adulthood. A special focus of my research is the prenatal programming of postnatal plasticity, based on findings that experiences during pregnancy influence the degree of developmental plasticity after birth.

  • Gene-Environment Interaction

    Besides psychological and physiological characteristics, genes have also been shown to moderate effects of the environment on psychological development. My work includes the investigation of so-called gene-environment interaction studies pertaining to a diverse range of environmental influences in large-scale longitudinal prospective studies.

  • Positive Development and Resilience

    I’m also interested in the concept of Positive Development in contrast to developmental psychopathology. This includes the design and empirical evaluation of intervention programmes aimed at fostering positive development and psychological resilience and the investigation of genetic and psychological moderation of such intervention effects.

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