Academic staff – University of Copenhagen

Department of Psychology > Academic staff

Victoria Helen Southgate

Victoria Helen Southgate


Member of:

    Research fields

    • Infant social cognition
    • Action processing
    • Imitation and mimicry
    • Theory of mind
    • Motivation and learning


    Research: brief description

    I study the ontogeny and development of human social cognition with a particular interest in the kind of skills that enable infants to learn from others. I use both behavioural (looking-time, eye-tracking) and neuroimaging (EEG, fNIRS, EMG) methods to ask what cognitive and neural mechanisms support infants’ early social cognitive abilities.


    Current research projects

    • The neural bases of action interpretation (supported by the Wellcome Trust)
    • Neural mechanisms supporting early mentalizing abilities
    • Investigating the development of mimicry (with Antonia Hamilton, Carina de Klerk and Chiara Bulgarelli, supported by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust)
    • Motivation and information seeking in infancy (with Teodora Gliga and Katarina Begus)


    Major grants

    2015 – 2018: Leverhulme Trust Research Grant (PI: Victoria Southgate): “A longitudinal investigation of the origins of mimicry” £253,000 (~DKK 2,500,000).

    2014-2015: The British Academy (PI: Victoria Southgate): “Investigating the role of caregiver imitation on infant’s motor cortex activation during the observation of facial actions”. £9671 (~DKK 98,000).

    2009-2015: The Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship (PI: Victoria Southgate). “The neural bases of action interpretation in human infants”. £600,000 (~DK 6,000,000).



    I teach at BA/BSc and MSc levels, and supervise Ph.D candidates in the following areas:

    • Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
    • Social cognition
    • Psychobiology


    Selected publications

    de Clerk, C.J.M, Johnson, M.H., & Southgate, V. (2015).  An EEG study on the somatotopic organisation of sensorimotor cortex activation during action execution and observation in infancy. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 15, 1-10.

    Begus, K., Gliga, T., & Southgate, V. (2014). Infants learn what they want to learn: responding to infant pointing leads to superior learning. PLoS One, 9(10): e108817.

    de Clerk, C.J.M., Johnson, M.H., Heyes, C., & Southgate, V. (2014). Baby steps: comparing effects of visual, motor and visuomotor experience on sensorimotor cortex activation during action observation.  Developmental Science, 18(2), 270-280.

    Southgate, V., Begus, K., Lloyd-Fox, S., di Gangi, V., & Hamilton, A. (2014). Goal representation in the infant brain. Neuroimage. 85, 294-301.

    Southgate, V., & Vernetti, A. (2014). Belief-based action prediction in preverbal infants. Cognition, 130 (1), 1-10.

    Southgate, V. (2013). Early manifestations of mind reading. In S. Baron-Cohen, H. Tager-Flusberg & M. Lombardo (Eds.), Understanding Other Minds, 3rd Edition. Oxford University Press.

    Southgate, V. (2013). Does infant behaviour provide support for the mirror neuron theory of action understanding? Consciousness and Cognition, 22(3), 1114-1121.

    Southgate, V., & Begus, K. (2013). Motor activation during the observation of non-executable actions in infants. Psychological Science, 24(6), 828-835.

    Begus, K., & Southgate, V. (2012). Infant pointing serves an interrogative function. Developmental Science, 15(5), 611-617

    Hernik, M., & Southgate, V. (2012). On the role of preference and persistence in infants' goal attribution. Developmental Science, 15(5), 714-722. Target article with commentaries.

    Senju, A., Southgate, V., Snape, C., Leonard, M., & Csibra, G. (2011). Do 18-month-olds really attribute mental states to others? A critical test. Psychological Science, 22, 878-880.

    Southgate, V., Chevallier, C., & Csibra, G. (2010). Seventeen-month-olds appeal to false beliefs to interpret others' referential communication. Developmental Science, 16, 907-912.

    Southgate, V., Johnson, M.H., El Karoui, I., & Csibra, G. (2010). Motor system activation reveals infants' online prediction of others' goals. Psychological Science, 21, 355-359.

    Southgate, V., Johnson, M.H., Osborne, T., & Csibra, G. (2009). Predictive motor activation during action observation in human infants. Biology Letters, 5, 769-772.

    Southgate, V., & Csibra, G. (2009). Inferring the outcome of an ongoing novel action at 13 Months. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1794-1798.

    Southgate, V., Chevallier, C., & Csibra, G. (2009). Sensitivity to communicative relevance tells young children what to imitate. Developmental Science, 12, 1013-1019.

    Senju, A., Southgate, V., White, S., & Frith, U. (2009). Mindblind eyes: an absence of spontaneous theory of mind in asperger syndrome. Science, 325 (5942), 883-885.

    Southgate, V., & Hamilton, A.F. (2008). Unbroken mirrors: challenging a theory of autism. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12 (6), 225-229.

    Southgate, V., Johnson, M.H., & Csibra, G. (2008). Infants attribute goals even to biomechanically impossible actions. Cognition, 107, 1059-1069.

    Southgate, V., Csibra, G., Kaufman, J., & Johnson, M.H. (2008). Distinct processing of objects and faces in the infant brain. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20, 741-749.

    Southgate, V., Senju, A., & Csibra, G. (2007). Action anticipation through attribution of false belief in two-year-olds.  Psychological Science, 18 (7), 587- 592.

    Southgate, V., van Maanen, C., & Csibra, G. (2007).  Infant pointing: communication to cooperate or communication to learn?  Child Development, 78 (3), 735-740.

    ID: 141784276