My research interests centre on social emotional and social cognitive development. I am particularly interested in the concept of empathy: What is this? How does it develop? How can we measure it? How does it guide our behaviour? Most importantly, how can we teach it? Much of my research has led me to work with children, both typically developing as well as clinical samples such as children on the autism spectrum, where empathy is compromised.
The relationship between empathy and aggressive behaviour. This project examines the relationship between empathy and aggressive behaviour in children and young adolescents in the Western Cape, bearing in mind the context they find themselves in. The aims here are to ultimately inform intervention strategies as well as find measures that are appropriate for our South African context.
Cradling bias - its prevalence and correlates. This project has multiples lines of investigation into the universal phenomenon of cradling bias, where roughly 75% of individuals cradle an infant to the left of the body midline. This phenomenon is argued to be facilitated by empathy/relating. I am interested in in which individuals this bias is disrupted or absent, as this may give us some insight into the underlying mechanisms of this phenomenon, which has implications for the development of relationships.
Using technology to teach empathy. This project focusses on how technology can be used for ‘good’. It is an inter-departmental project that looks at how games and other technology can teach empathy. Collaborators: Sumarie Roodt and Susan Malcolm-Smith
I teach at undergraduate and postgraduate level, with the majority of my teaching on undergraduate courses. While I teach on a broad array of topics, my speciality is Psychometrics, Statistics, Quantitative Research Design, and Clinical Neuropsychology. I also teach on the Masters Neuropsychology program, specifically Adult Neuropsychology.
Pileggi, L., Malcolm-Smith, S., & Solms, M. (2014). Investigating the role of social affective
attachment processes in cradling bias: The absence of cradling bias in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, doi.org/10.1080/1357650X.2014.948449
Pileggi, L., Malcolm-Smith, S., Hoogenhout, M., Thomas, K. G. F., & Solms, M. (2013).
Cradling bias is absent in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Child and
Hoogenhout, M., van der Straaten, K., Pileggi, L., & Malcolm-Smith, S. (2013). Young children
display contagious yawning when looking at the eyes. Journal of Child and Adolescent Behaviour, 1, doi:10.4172/jcalb.1000101
Pileggi, L., Storey, S., & Malcolm-Smith, S. (2020). Depressive symptoms disrupt leftward cradling, Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 32 (1), 35-43. DOI: 10.2989/17280583.2020.1765786
Pileggi, L. (2019, March). Aggressive Behaviour in South African Children and Young
Adolescents: The Role of Empathy. Social-Cognitive Development in South Africa. Paper presented at the International Convention of Psychological Science, Paris, France.
Naylor, T., Pileggi, L. & Malcolm-Smith, S. (2017). Investigating the correlates of callous-unemotional traits in Western Cape Children. Poster presented at the 2nd International Convention for Psychological Science, Vienna, Austria, March 2017.
Pileggi, L., Naylor, T., & Malcolm-Smith, S. (2016, July). Increased callous-unemotional/’psychopathic’ traits in South African Children: What does this mean? International Congress of Psychology, Yokohama, Japan.
Pileggi, L., & Malcolm-Smith, S. (2015, July). Reconceptualising Empathy: The Importance of Direct Measures in Understanding Behaviour. European Congress of Psychology, Milan, Italy.
Pileggi, L., Malcolm-Smith, S., & Solms, M. (2012, July). The absence of cradling bias in autism spectrum disorders. International Congress of Psychology, Cape Town, South Africa.
Pileggi, L., Malcolm-Smith, S. & Solms, M. (2011, July). Absence of cradling bias in autism spectrum disorders. South African Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions Conference, Pretoria, South Africa.
Pileggi, L., Malcolm-Smith, S., Robberts, M., & Thomas, K. G. F. (2011, May). Absence of cradling bias in autism spectrum disorders. 10th International Meeting for Autism Research, San Diego, CA.
Pileggi, L., Malcolm-Smith, S., Robberts, M., & Thomas, K. G. F. (2010, October). Absence of social communication and bonding in autism spectrum disorders: The phenomena of yawn contagion and cradling bias. IX International Autism-Europe Conference, Catania, Italy.
Pileggi, L., Malcolm-Smith, S., Robberts, M., & Thomas, K. G. F. (2010, March). Absence of social communication and bonding in autism spectrum disorders. 12th Biennial Congress of the South African Clinical Neuropsychology Association, Johannesburg, South Africa.