Social Development & Social Issues Lab

The Social Development & Social Issues Lab (the “Social Lab”) explores questions about how children, families, and educators from all backgrounds navigate challenging social topics. A core component of the work in the Social Lab is to build local community-based partnerships with individuals and groups representing multiple and intersecting identities.

Projects in the Social Lab focus on two main areas of inquiry. The first involves research on the development of intergroup attitudes, with a focus on gender. For example, how do such strong societal beliefs about gender form? How do environments perpetuate and mitigate social stereotyping and intergroup biases? Recent work has explored adults’ beliefs about addressing sexism with children and how those beliefs compare to those about addressing other isms (e.g., racism) as well as other challenging topics.

The second area of research is focused on educational media and technology that is designed to help students navigate social challenges and ethical dilemmas. Recent research involves the development of project-based curricula centered on the game Quandary and a nationwide evaluation of the curriculum. A primary goal of this research is to foster conversations within classrooms and to promote the application of strategies from digital tools to issues that students are facing in their own lives and communities.

Lacey J. Hilliard, PhD

To learn more about Dr. Hilliard and her work, please visit her faculty page.

Current Graduate Studentt

Profile Picture of Matthew Attaya

Matt Attaya is a 1st year doctoral student within Suffolk University’s Applied Developmental Psychology program. Matt graduated from Stonehill College with a BA in Psychology in 2015 while researching alternatives to zero tolerance behavior policies within schools across the United States. Matt worked to develop student-focused alternatives to punitive discipline practices aimed at supporting healthy development in youth. Observing a need for more developmentally-focused practices within public schools, Matt pursued a master's degree in Psychology at Harvard University in 2017. His graduate studies focused on increasing social-emotional learning competencies in youth through the development and integration of evidence-based practices into classrooms. Since then, Matt has supported school districts in the development of social-emotional learning programs. This year Matt will work alongside Dr. Hilliard within the Social Development and Social Issues Lab. He hopes to contribute to meaningful research that can be translated into programs and policies that promote healthy development in youth.

Research Interests

Social-emotional development, school-based interventions, education, social justice.


Poirier, C. R., Attaya, M. K., McConnaughy, K. A., Pappagianopoulos, J., & Sullivan, G. (2014). Coauthors in Alogna, V. K., Attaya, M. K., Aucoin, P., Bahnik, S., Birch, S., Birt, A. R., ... Zwaan, R. A. (2014). Registered replication report: Schooler & Engstler-Schooler (1990). Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9, 556–578.

Interested in joining the lab?

The Social Lab will be accepting new doctoral students to start in Fall 2020, through the Applied Developmental Psychology PhD program. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Hilliard for more information.

Suffolk Undergraduates Interested in Research

Psychology majors who are juniors or seniors and who have successfully completed the course in research methods can apply for an Independent Study Course (PSYCH-510) for 1-4 credits. Students will be involved in the varying tasks from ongoing research in the lab and would be encouraged to pursue their own related research goals. Please contact Dr. Hilliard if you are interested in exploring this possibility

Community Partners

Community groups, organizations, companies, and individuals interested in collaborating are welcome and encouraged to contact Dr. Hilliard.