I studied in Italy at the Universities of Padua (BSc/MSc Psychology Magna cum Laude; awarded the Italian Society of Psychology prize for best dissertation yrs. 1980-82) and Bologna (PhD Psychology).
I spent a post-doctoral period at the University of Stirling to work with George Butterworth at the Infant Study Unit, thanks to grants from the Italian CNR and European Science Foundation. I remained as post-doctoral fellow to extend the research thanks to grants from the ESRC.
In 1991 I became a tenured lecturer at the University of Padua. I spent a sabbatical year at the University of Cambridge in 1996 and I relocated to London for family reasons in 1998, when I joined Middlesex University.
I was Visiting Professor at the University of Roma-Tre, Rome, during a sabbatical term in 2006, and Visiting Scholar at LPL (Laboratoire Parole et Langage) CNRS UMR 7309, University of Aix-Marseille, during a sabbatical period in 2014.
I am Life Member of Clare Hall (Cambridge) since 1997 and Honorary Member of GRiDD (Group for Research in Developmental Disabilities, UCL Institute of Education, London), since 2013. I joined the Developmental Psychology Editorial Board of Frontiers in Pediatrics and Psychology in 2015, and AIRS (Advancing Interdisciplinary Research in Singing) in 2016. I am a member of The British Psychological Society / Developmental Section.
English; Italian (native); French (fluent); Spanish (basic).
Supervision of empirical projects:
I welcome Dissertation projects in the following areas:
My main research focus is on infant communication and the development of language. In the course of my career I studied the development of a first sound-meaning system based on nonsegmental features in infant prelinguistic vocalisations; infant-directed speech; and joint attention, in particular the pointing gesture in infants. More recently I have begun to study the relationship between language and music in the development of human communication.
I have established the Middlesex babyLab , a research laboratory dedicated to infant research and including observation facilities with AV digital support, sound-isolating booth, preferential looking/listening, Tobii eye-tracking.
I am interested also in a number of other aspects of developmental psychology concerning young children's cognition and emotion in typical and atypical groups.
Cognitive benefits of music exposure; Reading and musical expertise; Movement synchronization and affiliation; Music and emotion.
Nina Politimou, Music processing, language processing and working memory in preschool children: The effects of short-term music training (final year PhD).
Sara Boem (MSc Psychology Padua), Music Psychology, Erasmus+ Mobility grant (November 2016 - May 2017).
Coulisse Bialic-Murphy (Msc Psychology Middlesex London), Dance, Music and Reading (January - May 2017).
Franco, F., and Angelova, S. (2016). Emotion-related musical variables affect person perception:Differential effects for men and women in a synchronization task. Interaction Studies 17:2, 306-320, DOI: 10.1075/is.17.2.06fra.
Franco, F., Chew, M., and Swaine (2016). Preschoolers' attribution of affect to music: A comparison between vocal and instrumental performance. Psychology of Music, 1st August online, DOI: 10.1177/0305735616652954.
Van Puyvelde, M., and Franco, F. (2015). The interaction of music and language in the ontogenesis of human communication: A multimodal parent-infant co-regulation system. Proceedings of the International Conference on the Multimodal Experience of Music 2015. Sheffield (UK): HRI Online Publications, ISBN 978-0-9571022-4-8. Available online at:
Gettings, S., Franco, F., & Santosh, P. (2015). Audio-conferencing as a method of facilitating sibling support groups: a pilot study. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 9:8 doi:10.1186/s13034-015-0041-z.
Franco, F., Swaine, J.S., Israni, S., Zaborowska, K.A., Kaloko, F., Kesavarajan, I. and Majek, J.A. (2014). Affect-matching music improves cognitive performance in adults and young children for both positive and negative emotions. Psychology of Music, DOI: 10.1177/0305735614548500.
Franco, F., Pomorska, K., Abramowski, A., Itakura, S., and Nikaido, K. & D. Demetriou (2014). Can children with autism read emotions from the eyes? The Eyes Test revisited. Research in Developmental Disabilities, DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2014.01.037.
Franco, F. Embodied attention in infant pointing. In J. Metcalfe & H. Torrace (Eds.), Agency & Joint Attention. NY: Oxford University Press, 2013 (pp. 152-164) (ISBN 978-0-19-998834-1).
Franco, F., and Cross, I. (Guest Editors). Introduction to The Music of Language, The Language of Music: Meaning and Entrainment Questions. Empirical Musicology Review, 2012, Special Issue vol. 7/1-2, 2-4.
Franco, F., & Martiskova, J. (2011). Can young children recognize emotion in the human voice? (Schopnosť rozpoznávania emócií z ľudského hlasu u detí predškolského veku). In E. Klčovanská & A. Topoľská (Eds) Psychologická teória a prax očami absolventa KP FF TU. Trnava (Slovakia): Trnava University Press, 2011 (pp. 125-132) (ISBN 978-80-8082-387-0).
Major, A., Franco, F., & Zotovic, M., Preschoolers understanding of implicit causality and theory of mind development: A comparison between Serbian and Hungarian monolingual children (in English). Psihologija, 2010, 43/2,187-198. DOI:10.2298/PSI1002187M; UDC 159.955.072-053.4.
Franco, F., Brunswick, N., & de Mornay Davies, P. Music of Language, Language of Music. The Psychologist, 2010, 11/3, 913-914.
Franco, F., Perucchini, P., & March, B. Is infant initiation of joint attention by pointing affected by type of interaction? Social Development, 2009, 18 (1), 51-76.
D’Odorico, L., Assanelli, A., Franco, F., Jacob, V. A follow-up study on Italian Late Talkers: Development of language, short-term memory, phonological awareness, impulsiveness and attention. Applied Psycholinguistics, 2007, 28, 157-169.
Franco, F. Infant pointing: Harlequin, servant of two masters. In N. Eilan, C. Hoerl, T. McCormack, J. Roessler (Eds.) Joint attention: Communication and other minds. Problems in philosophy and psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005 (pp. 129-164).
Assanelli, A., D'Odorico, L., Franco, F., & Salerni, N. Language delay and joint attention. Psicologia Clinica dello Sviluppo, 2005, IX N.2, 289-314.
Levorato, C., Franco, F., Tasso, A., Russell, J. Implicit causality in verbs of visual perception: A crosslinguistic comparison between English and Italian. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 2005, XXXII N. 3, 131-154.
Butterworth, G., Franco, F., McKenzie, B., Graupner, L., & Todd, B. Dynamic aspects of visual event perception and the production of pointing by human infants. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 2002, 20, 1-24.
Franco, F., & Gagliano, A. Toddler’s pointing when joint attention is obstructed. First Language, 2001, 21, 289-321.
Russell, J., Hill, E., & Franco, F. The role of belief veracity in understanding intentions-in-action: Preschool children's performance on the transparent intentions task. Cognitive Development, 2001, 16, 775-792.
Assanelli, A., Salerni, N., Franco, F., & D'Odorico, L. Linguisitc delay and gestural communication. ELA2001 Proceedings, 2001.
Franco, F., Levorato, C., Tasso, A., Russell, J. Cross-linguistic developmental evidence of implicit causality in visual perception and cognition verbs. In M. Perkins & S. Howard (Eds.) New directions in language development and disorders. New York: Plenum, 2000 (pp. 189-198).
Franco, F. The development of meaning in infancy: Early communication and social understanding. In S. Hala (Ed.) The development of social cognition. Hove: Psychology Press, 1997 (pp. 95-160).
Franco, F., & Wishart, J. Preverbal communication in young children with Down syndrome. In M. Aldridge (Ed.) Proceedings of the Child Language Seminar. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd., 1996 (pp. 52-65).
Franco, F., & Butterworth, G. Pointing and social awareness: Declaring and requesting in the second year. Journal of Child Language, 1996, 23, 307-336.
Franco, F., & Wishart, J. Gestural communication development in children with Down syndrome. In R. Vianello & C. Cornoldi (Eds.), Handicap e apprendimento: Ricerche e proposte di intervento (Handicap and learning: Research and intervention). Bergamo: Junior, 1995 (pp. 55-69).
Franco, F., & Longobardi, E. Assessment of communication and early language. In G. Axia (Ed.), La valutazione dello sviluppo (Assessment of development). Roma: La Nuova Italia, 1994 (pp. 117-151).
Butterworth, G., & Franco, F. Motor development: communication and cognition. In L. Kalverboer, B. Hopkins, R.H. Gueze (Eds.) A longitudinal approach to the study of motor development in early and later childhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993 (pp. 153-165).
Jenkins, J., Franco, F., Dolins, F., & Sewell, A. Toddlers' reactions to negative emotion displays: Forming models of relationships. Infant Behavior and Development, 1995, 18, 273-281.
Franco, F., & Wishart, J. The use of pointing and other gestures by young children with Down syndrome. American Journal of Mental Retardation, 1995, 100/2, 160-182.
Franco, F. Some social perception processes in adult-infant interaction: An experimental approach. In G. Di Stefano and M. Tallandini (Eds.), Meccanismi e processi di sviluppo nell'interpretazione post-piagetiana (Mechanisms and processes of development in post-Piagetian modeling). Milano: Cortina, 1991 (pp. 359-398).
Franco, F., Evidence, interpretation and theories about object permanence in the sensorimotor period. In G. Di Stefano and M. Tallandini (Eds.) Meccanismi e processi di sviluppo nell'interpretazione post-piagetiana (Mechanisms and processes of development in post-Piagetian modeling). Milano: Cortina, 1991 (pp. 249-302).
D'Odorico, L., & Franco, F. Adult-infant interaction as a context for communicative development. In V. Ugazio (Ed.) I condizionamenti educativi (Educational constraints on development). Milano: Angeli, 1991 (pp. 184-208).
D'Odorico, L., & Franco, F. Selective production of vocalisations in different communication contexts. Journal of Child Language, 1991, 18, 475-99.
Franco, F., D'Odorico, L., & Campbell, R. Children's knowledge about infants. Eta' Evolutiva, 1990, 39, 91-96.
Franco, F., Arcuri, L., & Cadinu, M. Implicit causality in interpersonal verbs: a test with Italian. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 1990, XVII/1, 159-174.
Franco, F., & Arcuri, L. Implicit causality of verbs: Effects of semantic valence. British Journal of Social Psychology, 1990, 26, 61-70.
Franco, F. Analysis of preverbal communicative development. In L. Camaioni and F. Simion (Eds.) Metodi di ricerca in psicologia dello sviluppo (Research methods in developmental psychology). Bologna: Il Mulino, 1989 (pp. 237-267).
Franco, F., & D'Odorico, L. Baby Talk from the perspective of discourse production. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 1988, 17, 29-63.
Franco, F. Similarities and differences between different types of social partners in adult-infant interaction. Eta' Evolutiva, 1988, 30, 103-113.
Franco, F. Maturation and development: acoustical analysis of communication by cry. Revista de Logopedia, Foniatria y Audiologia (Spain), 1988, VIII/3, 162-172.
Franco, F. Infant cry in the perspective of language development: spectrographic analysis of vocalisations and psychological accounts. In J. Kirkland (Ed.) Cry Reports; Special Issue 1987. Palmerston North, N. Z.: Massey University Press, 1988 (pp. 10-16).
Franco, F., & D'Odorico, L. Context-discourse matching in Baby Talk. In M. Bertuccelli Papi and J. Verschueren (Eds.) The pragmatic perspective. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1987 (pp. 213-228).
Franco, F., Memory in infancy: precursors, prerequisites, or early memory organisations? Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 1987, XIV/4, 563-576.
D'Odorico, L., & Franco, F. Interactional context and Baby Talk: A comparison between mothers and fathers. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 1986, 2, 253-273.
D'Odorico, L., Franco, F., & Vidotto, G. Temporal characteristics in infant cry and non-cry vocalisations. Language and Speech, 1985, 28, 29-46.
D'Odorico, L., & Franco, F. The determinants of Baby Talk: Relationship to context. Journal of Child Language, 1985, 12, 567-586.
Franco, F., & Gobbo, C. Analysis of exploratory behaviour in mother-infant interaction. Eta' Evolutiva, 1985, 20, 13-24.
Franco, F. Differences in manner of phonation of infant cries: relationship to communicative context. Language and Speech, 1984, 27, 59-78.
Franco, F. Non-segmental aspects of the acoustical differentiation of cry and non-cry vocalisations in the first year of life. Acta Phoniatrica Latina, 1984, V/3, 197-202.
D'Odorico, L., & Franco, F. Communicative development of crying in the first year of life. Eta' Evolutiva, 1984, 19, 11-21.
Franco, F. Functions and characteristics of crying in the first year of life. A critical review of the literature. Eta' Evolutiva, 1984, 19, 105-118.
Franco, F. The development of research on the diagnostic use of spectrographic analysis of infant cry. Methodological problems and suggestions for a normative study. Psicologia Clinica, 1983, 2, 221-245.
Franco, F. Jerome Bruner's contribution to the study of language development. Archivio di Psicologia Neurologia e Psichiatria, 1983, 1, 44-67.
1. Development / Evolution, 19-20 July 2010 (London, Middlesex University)
2. Meaning / Entrainment, 13-14 December 2010 (Cambridge, Centre for Music and Science)
3. Pragmatics / Literacy, July 2011 (London, Middlesex University)
Politimou, Nina and Dalla Bella, Simone and Faruggia, Nicolas and Franco, Fabia (2019) Born to speak and sing: Musical predictors of language development in pre-schoolers. Frontiers in Psychology, 10 . pp. 1-18. ISSN 1664-1078 (Published online first)
Hadar, Tamar and Boem, Sara and Franco, Fabia (2018) Effetti della partecipazione a gruppi musicali per genitori e infanti su sviluppo comunicativo e genitorialità: confronto fra gruppi di flauto e di canto [= Effects of longitudinal music groups for infants and parents on communication and parenting: comparison between song and flute groups]. In: Gruppi sonori: Dalla tradizione alla cura. Degli Stefani, Mario and Guadagnini, Manuela , eds. CLEUP/Fondazione G. E. Ghirardi Onlus, Padova (Italy), pp. 162-189. ISBN 9788867879755
Tuedor, Marian and Franco, Fabia and White, Anthony S. and Smith, Serengul and Adams, Ray G. (2018) Testing literacy educational software to develop design guidelines for children with Autism. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education . ISSN 1034-912X (Published online first)
Politimou, Nina and Stewart, Lauren and Müllensiefen, Daniel and Franco, Fabia (2018) Music@Home: a novel instrument to assess the home musical environment in the early years. PLoS One, 13 (4). e0193819. ISSN 1932-6203
Pino, Maria Chiara and Mazza, Monica and Mariano, Melania and Peretti, Sara and Dimitriou, Dagmara and Masedu, Francesco and Valenti, Marco and Franco, Fabia (2017) Simple mindreading abilities predict complex theory of mind: developmental delay in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47 (9). pp. 2743-2756. ISSN 0162-3257
BRITISH ACADEMY SGS (PI): Emotional meaning of musical consonance and dissonance in cross-modal nonverbal tasks, with F. Bravo (Dresden), M. Mazza (L’Aquila, Italy), and M. Van Puyvelde (Brussels) - starting spring 2017.
SEMPRE The Arnold Bentley Fund (PI): Do musical training and practice support reading? A study of professional dancers and musicians, with Nicola Brunswick and Coulisse Bialic-Murphy (Middlesex University, Psychology) - started January 2017
AIRS (Advancing Interdisciplinary Research on Singing), Mapping the music of 2-4 year olds with LENA, with Lauren Stewart (Goldsmiths', Psychology) and Graham Welch (UCL Institute of Education) - February/July 2015.
SEMPRE The Arnold Bentley Fund (PI): Do M'bendjele (BaYaka) Pygmies recognise communicative intent in Western infant-directed songs? Another look at music and universality, with Jerome Lewis (Anthropology, University College London, UK) and Simone Falk (Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich and LPL Aix-Marseille University, France) - September 2014/2016.
SENSE, Joint attention and communication development in deaf-blind infants and young children, with Maria Nunez (PI, Glasgow Caledonian University) and Sue Leekam (Cardiff University) – September 2011/January 2014.
MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY GRANT (PI), Reading abilities and music: The role of different types of expertise, with N. Brunswick, L. Kiakides and A. Evans - May/July 2013.
NUFFIELD FOUNDATION SGS (PI): Young children recognition of emotion in the human voice – January 2011 / September 2012.
DFG (PAntrag im Programm „Initiierung und Intensivierung bilateraler Kooperationen" der DFG, Deutschland – Großbritannien), The intertwining of Speech and Song: Is there a relationship between perceptive and interactional aspects of parental singing and language development? With Simone Falk (PI, LMU Munich) - 2011/12.
BRITISH ACADEMY SGS (PI): "If you are happy and you know it ....": Can preschoolers recognise emotion in music? With Marcia Chew, and Joel Swaine (Cambridge University, Centre for Music & Science) – October 2010 / June 2011.
SEMPRE The Arnold Bentley Fund (PI): Speech and music tone processing in function of musical and language background (tonal v non-tonal), with Martin Rohrmeier (Cambridge University Centre for Music and Science / Berlin FU) and Marcia Chew - October 2010 / June 2011.
BPS (British Psychological Society) (PI): Research Seminars Competition to organize three international meetings The music of language, the language of music - January 2010 / September 2011.
Fabia Franco (Middlesex University, London), Music and communication: New perspectives relevant for the autistic spectrum. Keynote at the Symposium “ Intersubjectivity, theory of mind and music”, University of L’Aquila & Abruzzi Regional Centre for Autism, 11th November 2016.