Dr Anna Samara

Dr Anna Samara BSc, MSc, PhD, FHEA

Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Dr. Anna Samara joined the School of Human Sciences in August 2019 as a Lecturer in Psychology. Prior to this, she held postdoctoral positions at UCL PALS (2014-2019) and the University of Liverpool (2016-2019).

Anna's research mainly addresses questions about written (spelling) and spoken language acquisition through artificial language learning methods: experiments where child and adult participants learn experimenter-designed miniature languages.Her teaching interests include developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, and research methods.
Posts held previously:
  • 2016 – 2019: Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Liverpool; Honorary Research Associate, PALS, University College London
    • Postdoctoral Research Associate on an ERC funded project (PI: Ben Ambridge) investigating language development (retreat from overgeneralization) using artificial language learning methods.
  • 2014-2016: Postdoctoral Research Associate, PALS, University College London
    • Postdoctoral Research Associate on an ESRC funded project (PIs: Liz Wonnacott & Kenny Smith) investigating the acquisition of free/conditioned linguistic variation in children
  • 2012-2013: Teaching Assistant, School of Psychology, Bangor University
  • 2009-2012: Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher/PhD student, School of Psychology, Bangor University
    • PhD candidate and Early Stage Researcher on a Marie Curie funded cross-linguistic project investigating literacy development in European languages.

Responsibilities within the university

  • Senior Lecturer in Psychology, School of Human Sciences
  • Module Leader for Child Psychology & Education, Levels 6 & 7
  • Programme Leader for the MSc Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • Local Network Lead for the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN)


Reviewer: Cognition, Developmental Psychology; Dyslexia; Educational Psychology; First Language; Frontiers in Psychology; JEP: LMC; JECP; Language Learning, SSR, Quality & Quantity

External examiner at Canterbury Christ Church University

Research / Scholarly interests

Anna's research addresses questions about literacy and language development and impairment.

One strand of work focuses on children's spelling development and their ability to pick up on statistical patterns within and between sound and letter combinations: these patterns are replete in one's orthography yet they are not always explicitly taught (e.g., "final consonants are more frequently doubled after single vowels than double vowels"; e.g. Jeff vs deaf). Previous and ongoing experiments use artificial lexicons to probe precisely what patterns young spellers can learn and under what circumstances, with the overall aim of shedding light onto underlying learning mechanisms.

Other work employs artificial language learning methods to explore various questions and theories about how we learn language. For example, recent work (with collaborators at UCL and Edinburgh) looked at whether children and adults can learn probabilistic social linguistic conditioning (i.e. learning that certain speakers are more likely to use some forms than others). Other ongoing experiments (with collaborators at Liverpool and UCL) investigate what types of linguistic input discourage children from producing ungrammatical sentences of the type "The funny clown laughed the man".

Anna is also interested in causes of literacy impairment, e.g., the putative statistical learning difficulties of dyslexic adults.

Recent publications


Brown, Helen , Smith, Kenny, Samara, Anna, Wonnacott, Elizabeth (2021), Semantic cues in language learning: an artificial language study with adult and child learners. Routledge. In: , , , . Routledge, Language, Cognition and Neuroscience ISSN: 2327-3798 (Print), 2327-3801 (Online) (doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/23273798.2021.1995612).

Singh, Daniela , Wonnacott, Elizabeth, Samara, Anna (2021), Statistical and explicit learning of graphotactic patterns with no phonological counterpart: Evidence from an artificial lexicon study with 7- 8-year-olds and adults. Elsevier. In: , , , . Elsevier, Journal of Memory and Language, 121: 104265 ISSN: 0749-596X (Print), (doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2021.104265) NB Item availability restricted.

Samara, Anna , Singh, Daniela, Wonnacott, Elizabeth (2018), Statistical learning and spelling: Evidence from an incidental learning experiment with children. Elsevier. In: , , , . Elsevier, Cognition, 182 . pp. 25-30 ISSN: 0010-0277 (Print), (doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2018.09.005).

Samara, Anna , Smith, Kenny, Brown, Helen, Wonnacott, Elizabeth (2017), Acquiring variation in an artificial language: Children and adults are sensitive to socially conditioned linguistic variation. Elsevier. In: , , , . Elsevier, Cognitive Psychology, 94 . pp. 85-114 ISSN: 0010-0285 (Print), (doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogpsych.2017.02.004).

Smith, Kenny , Perfors, Amy, Fehér, Olga, Samara, Anna , Swoboda, Kate , Wonnacott, Elizabeth (2017), Language learning, language use and the evolution of linguistic variation. The Royal Society. In: , , , . The Royal Society, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 372 (1711) ISSN: 0962-8436 (Print), 1471-2970 (Online) (doi: https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0051).

Samara, Anna and , Caravolas, Markéta (2016), Artificial grammar learning in dyslexic and nondyslexic adults: Implications for orthographic learning. Taylor & Francis. In: , , , . Taylor & Francis, Scientific Studies of Reading, 21 (1) . pp. 76-97 ISSN: 1088-8438 (Print), 1532-799X (Online) (doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/10888438.2016.1262865).

Samara, Anna and , Caravolas, Markéta (2014), Statistical learning of novel graphotactic constraints in children and adults. Elsevier. In: , , , . Elsevier, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 121 . pp. 137-155 ISSN: 0022-0965 (Print), (doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2013.11.009).

Book section

Samara, Anna and , (2021), Artificial language learning methods as a tool for sociolinguistic research. Routledge. In: , , In: Kimberly Geeslin (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition and Sociolinguistic. Routledge, Milton Park, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England, UK (1st) (doi: ).

Caravolas, Markéta and , Samara, Anna (2014), Learning to read and spell words in different writing systems. Oxford University Press. In: , , In: Alexander Pollatsek, Rebecca Treiman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Readin. Oxford University Press, The Oxford handbook of reading . pp. 326-343 . ISBN: 9780199324576 (doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199324576.013.21) NB Item availability restricted.