Dr Rana Abu-Zhaya

Dr Rana Abu-Zhaya

Lecturer in Developmental Psychology

School of Psychology (Faculty of Health)


Academic Appointments

  • Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Developmental Psychology, School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Jan. 2021 - Present
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Psychology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Oct. 2018 - Dec. 2020


  • PhD, Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, Purdue University, USA, Aug. 2018
  • MSc, Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, Purdue University, USA, Aug. 2014
  • BA, Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Haifa, Israel, Feb. 2009

Certification and Licensure

  • Clinically Certified Speech-Language Pathologist & Audiologist, Division of Medical Professions, Ministry of Health, Israel, Aug. 2010 - Present

Teaching interests

I have broad teaching interests that span various areas and topics: 

- Language development and its links to other areas of development (social, emotional, sensory, motor)

- Cross-cultural perspectives on early language development

- Language development in children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), Hearing Impairments, and Autism

- Academic writing and communicating research  

- Research methods

- Research ethics 

Spring 2021 Modules

PSYC 516 - Applied Psychology

PSYC 756 - Communicating Psychological Research

PSYC 604/706 - Current Topics in Psychology: Multisensory Development and Language Acquisition 

Research interests

Broadly speaking, I am interested in exploring how features of language input shape and influence language acquisition. Specifically, my research examines the multimodal, multisensory distributional properties of language input to infants and young children and how they learn from such input. To investigate these processes, I use a combination of observation-based methods (dyadic caregiver-infant interactions and naturalistic recordings from the home environment) and experimental studies of statistical learning and word learning utilizing physiological (heart-rate) and behavioral measures (preferential looking and the head-turn preference procedure).


Abu-Zhaya, R. & Arnon, I. (registered report, under review). Does order of exposure impact the formation of linguistic predictions? Grammatical gender as a case study. Language Learning.

Abu-Zhaya, R., Arnon, I., & Borovsky, A. (under review). Do children use multi-word information in real-time sentence comprehension? Cognitive Science.

Kellerman, A. M., Schwichtenberg, A. J., Abu-Zhaya, R., Miller, M., Young, G. S., & Ozonoff, S. (2020). Dyadic synchrony and responsiveness in the first year: Associations with autism risk. Autism Research, 13, 2190-2201.

Abu-Zhaya, R., Kondaurova, M., Houston, D., & Seidl, A. (2019). Vocal and tactile input to children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, 62(7), 2372-2385.

Lew-Williams, C., Ferguson, B., Abu-Zhaya, R., & Seidl, A. (2017). Social touch interacts with infants’ learning of auditory patterns. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 35, 66-74.

Abu-Zhaya, R., Seidl, A., & Cristia, A. (2016). Multimodal infant-directed communication: How caregivers combine tactile and linguistic cues. Journal of Child Language, 44, 1088-1116.

Conference Papers

Chen, Q., Abu-Zhaya, R., Seidl, A., & Zhu, F. (2019). CNN based touch interaction detection for infant speech development. In 2019 IEEE Conference on Multimedia Information Processing and Retrieval (MIPR), 20-25.

Abu-Zhaya, R., Seidl, A., Tincoff, R., & Cristia, A. (2017). Building a multimodal lexicon: Lessons from infants’ learning of body part words. In Proc. GLU 2017 International Workshop on Grounding Language Understanding, 18-21.

Chen, Q., Li, H., Abu-Zhaya, R., Seidl, A., Zhu, F., & Delp, E. J. (2016). Touch event recognition for human interaction. Electronic Imaging, 2016(11), 1-6.

Reports & invited lectures

May, 2020: Blooming and buzzing, not confusing: How multimodal caregiver-provided cues help infants learn language. The annual seminar of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.

October, 2017: Multivariate approaches to diversity: The present and future of multi-measure, multi-modal, and inter-disciplinary work in shaping first language acquisition. The Many Paths to Language Workshop at the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Conferences organised

The 2020 Many Paths to Language (MPaL) Workshop


My ResearchGate page: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rana_Abu-Zhaya