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)
Franco, Fabia and Suttora, Chiara and Spinelli, Maria and Kozar, Iryna and Fasolo, Mirco (2021) Singing to infants matters: early singing interactions affect musical preferences and facilitate vocabulary building. Journal of Child Language . pp. 1-26. ISSN 0305-0009 (Published online first)
Mangiacotti, Anthony and Franco, Fabia and Hsu, Ming Hung and Biasutti, Michele (2021) Evaluating a continuing professional development course on cognitive functions for Music Therapists working in care homes. The Arts in Psychotherapy . ISSN 0197-4556 (Published online first)
Politimou, Nina and Douglass-Kirk, Pedro and Pearce, Marcus and Stewart, Lauren and Franco, Fabia (2021) Melodic expectations in 5- to 6-year-old children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology , 203 . ISSN 0022-0965
Falk, Simone and Fasolo, Mirco and Genovese, Giuliana and Romero-Lauro, Leonor and Franco, Fabia (2021) Sing for me, Mama! Infants' discrimination of novel vowels in song. Infancy , 26 (2). pp. 248-270. ISSN 1525-0008
Ward, Emma V. and Isac, Alex and Donnelly, Maria and Van Puyvelde, Martine and Franco, Fabia (2021) Memory improvement in aging as a function of exposure to mood-matching music. Acta Psychologica , 212 . pp. 1-6. ISSN 0001-6918
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.