A PSYCHOLOGIST has been awarded a research grant to conduct groundbreaking research into the development of self-awareness among young children.

Dr Sheila Cunningham, of Abertay University, will carry out the study by looking at how youngsters first develop the concept of 'the self' and how this process impacts on cognition - those abilities linked to knowledge, comprehension, judgment, memory and analytics.

It is hoped the three-year project, funded by a £106,336 grant from the Leverhulme Trust, will fill the gap in the knowledge related to the mental development of toddlers.

Ms Cunningham said: "The self is a concept that influences numerous social, emotional and cognitive processes in adulthood, but we know surprisingly little about its development in childhood.

"By around three years, children can describe autobiographical memories, use personal pronouns to refer to themselves, recognise their reflection in a mirror, and show embarrassment in self-conscious situations.

"These developmental achievements suggest that children have established a sense of self by the end of toddlerhood, although self-knowledge and self-reflection becomes more elaborate with age."

Dr Cunningham added that adults and teenagers have a 'consistent memory advantage' for information processed with reference to their own self, as opposed to information about other people.

For example, people are more likely to remember being asked the question 'are you clever?' rather than questions like 'is David Cameron clever?'

The Abertay study will seek to assess the extent which this self-reference effect operates across childhood.

Furthermore, the study hopes to produce clinical applications through successful strategies for support children with autism spectrum disorders.