Creativity & Innovation

Professor and author Ed Tronick with his book.

Ed Tronick

  • Distinguished Professor of Psychology

  • Director, Infant-Parent Mental Health Program

You know you’ve made it when your work is featured on an episode of NBC’s “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”

That’s the case for Ed Tronick, a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

The developmental and clinical psychologist’s Still Face Experiment, which shows the strong reactions of a baby trying to win back its mother’s attention, was used as a plot point on the show in 2009.

Still Face Experiment Goes Viral
Tronick was one of the first researchers to show that babies are profoundly affected by their parents' emotional states and behavior. His Still Face Experiment is now the standard for studying social emotional development, and a video of it has gone viral on YouTube.

Tronick studies the neurobehavioral and social-emotional development of infants and young children, and infant memory for stress. He has also investigated the effects of prenatal cocaine abuse and other toxic substances on infant behavior and development.

Tronick’s latest research focuses on the impressionable nature of genes, an emerging and controversial field known as epigenetics.

“Epigenetic processes are part of normal development – for example, they occur during cell division, fetal development and over the course of the life span,” Tronick explains. “We now know that single nutrients, toxins, prenatal or postnatal environmental exposures, and even parenting practices can silence or activate a gene without altering its genetic code.”

Discoveries in behavioral epigenetics may lead to targeted therapies for depression, addiction, schizophrenia, and learning disorders. 

In addition to teaching at UMass Boston, Tronick is chief of the Child Development Unit, which moved from Children’s Hospital Boston to UMass Boston in January 2012. Tronick also has faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School, Fielding Graduate University, and Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

He has co-authored and authored more than 150 scientific papers and chapters. His book, The Neurobehavioral and Social Emotional Development of Infants and Children, is a tour de force according to a review in New England Psychologist.


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Watch the Still Face Experiment