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Joan Peskin

Associate Professor (CSE/DPE)

Phone: 416-978-0948

Peskin Lab: Language, Literacy & Literature website




  • Theory of mind
  • Cognitive development and learning
  • Development of poetic literacy
  • Symbolic thinking in literary interpretation



My applied interests are the application of developmental psychology to education; the melding of cognitive science and literary theory, and its effect on teaching literature.

Teaching Overview

Cognitive development and learning
Development, language and literature

Joan Peskin

Research Interests

My research interests involve a diverse range of topics with the following questions at their core: How do we represent knowledge? What is its developmental progression, and what are the social and educational implications?

One set of topics involves theory of mind, in particular, the socio-cognitive and educational implications of young children's developing ability to represent other people's mental states (i.e., beliefs, desires, emotions, intentions). I am now focusing on 5- to 8-year-olds' theory of mind in their early literacy. A critical component of literacy is the ability to take one's reader's background knowledge - or lack of knowledge - into account in one's written or dictated compositions. I am also investigating what appears to be a powerful intervention to foster such awareness, particularly among vulnerable populations (High-functioning autism, Asperger's Syndrome and ADHD).

A second set of topics involves research on the development of poetic literacy. I have examined the developing ability to read poetry, the ways in which educators can foster metaphoric thinking, and I am now investigating developing expertise in the writing of poetry (published poets versus novice poets).


Representative Publications

Peskin, J., Comay, J., Chen, X., Prusky, C., (in press). Does Theory of Mind in Pre-kindergarten Predict the Ability to Think about a Reader’s Mind in Elementary School Compositions? A Longitudinal Study. Journal of Cognition and Development.

Waugh, C. & Peskin, J. (in press). Improving the Social Skills of Children with HFASD: An Intervention Study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 

Bischoff, T., & Peskin, J. (2014). Do Fiction Writers have Superior Perspective Taking Ability? Scientific Study of Literature, 4(2), 2014, 125-149.

Peskin, J., Prusky, C. & Comay, J. (2014) Keeping the reader’s mind in mind: Development of perspective-taking in children’s dictations. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 35(1), 35-43

Grossman, M., Peskin, J, & San Juan, V. (2013). Thinking about a reader’s mind: Fostering communicative clarity in the compositions of youth with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, (10), 2376-2392

Peskin, J. and Wells-Jopling, R. (2012). Fostering symbolic interpretation during adolescence. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 33(1),13-23.

Peskin, J. (2011). The Social and Educational Benefits of the Scientific Study of Literature: From Picture Books to Poetry. In Hakemulder, F. (Ed.), De Stralende Lezer: Wetenschappelijk onderzoek naar de invloed van het lezen, (pp. 25-5). Delft: Eburon

Peskin, J. (2011). “It’s not magic!” Research on developing Expertise. Education Canada, 51(4),32-36.

Peskin, J (2010). The development of poetic literacy through the school years. Discourse Processes, 47, 77-103.

Peskin, J., Allen, G. & Wells-Jopling, R. (2010). The “Educated Imagination”: Applying instructional research to the teaching of symbolic interpretation of poetry. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 53(6), 498-507.

Mar, R. A., Peskin, J., & Fong, K. (2010). Literary Arts and the Development of the Life Story. In T. Habermas (Ed.), The development of autobiographical reasoning in adolescence and beyond: New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 131, 73-84.

Peskin, J., Mar, R., Bischoff, T. (2009). Advanced social cognition in the literary Arts. Commentary on Goldstein, T. & Winner, E. A new lens on the development of social cognition: The study of acting. In C. Milbraith & C. Lightfoot (Eds.) The Arts and Human Development, Jean Piaget Society Book Series, (pp. 49 – 62).

Peskin, J. Katz, S. & Lazare, G. (2009). Curriculum and collaboration: Building a professional learning community among instructors in higher education, Teaching Educational Psychology, 5, 23-38.

Peskin, J. (2007). The genre of poetry: Secondary school students’ conventional expectations and interpretive operations. English in Education, 41(3), pp. 20-36).

Peskin, J. & Astington, J. W. (2004). The effects of adding metacognitive language to story texts. Cognitive Development, 19(2), 253-273.

Peskin, J. & Olson, D. R. (2004). On reading poetry: Implications for later language development. In R. Berman (ed.) Language Development across Childhood and Adolescence: Psycholinguistic and Crosslinguistic Perspectives: TILAR (Trends in Language Acquisition) series, Volume 3, (pp. 211-232). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Astington, J. W., & Peskin, J. (2004). Meaning and use: Children's acquisition of the mental lexicon. In J. Hudson, J. Lucariello, R. Fivush, & P. Bauer, (Eds.), Development of the Mediated Mind: Sociocultural Context and Cognitive Development (festschrift for Katherine Nelson) (59-78). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Peskin, J. & Ardino, V. (2003). Representing the mental world in children's social behavior: Playing hide-and-seek and keeping a secret. Social Development, 12 (4), 496-512.

Peskin, J. (1998). Constructing meaning when reading poetry: An Expert-Novice study. Cognition and Instruction, 16 (3), 235-263.

Peskin, J. (1996). Guise and guile: Children's understanding of narratives in which the purpose of pretense is deception. Child Development, 67, 1735-1751.

Peskin, J. (1992). Ruse and representations: On children's ability to conceal information. Developmental Psychology, 28 (1), 84-89.

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