Francesca Happé

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Francesca Happé
Francesca Happe.jpg
Francesca G. Happé
Nationality British
Fields Cognitive neuroscience
Institutions MRC
Institute of Psychiatry
King's College London
Alma mater Corpus Christi College, Oxford and University College, London University
Thesis Theory of Mind and Communication in Autism (1991)
Doctoral advisor Uta Frith
Known for Research on autism spectrum conditions

Francesca Gabrielle Elizabeth Happé is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Director of the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. Her research focuses on autism spectrum conditions, specifically attempting to understanding social cognitive processes in these conditions.[1]



Happé has stated that her grandfather worked as a scientist for Technicolor, and "made some real innovations" and that her parents always encouraged her to "ask questions".[2]

Happé read Experimental Psychology at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. She then completed her PhD at University College, London University supported by a MRC Studentship at the Cognitive Development Unit. Her thesis was entitled Theory of Mind and Communication in Autism for which she was supervised by Uta Frith.[3]


Happé has held a number of research roles, working first at the MRC Cognitive Development Unit between 1991 and 1995, before moving to the Department of Psychology and Aphasia Research College, Boston College in the USA for a year in 1995. Since 1995, she has held a role at the SGDP Centre, Institute of Psychiatry(IoP) first as Senior Scientist in Cognitive Psychology (1996-2000), then as Reader in Cognitive Neuroscience (2000-2008) and finally as Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience since 2008. In October 2012 she became Director of the MRC SGDP Centre at the IoP.[3]


Her work explores the nature of social understanding in typical development and "mind-reading" difficulties in autism.[4] She is also actively engaged in studies of abilities and assets in people with autism, and their relation to detail-focused cognitive style. As well as cognitive methods, her research has involved functional imaging studies, exploration of acquired brain lesions, and behaviour genetic methods. She is the author of numerous research papers, as well as a book on autism for general readers. Her work funded by grants from the Wellcome Trust, MRC, ERSC and Autism Speaks, has won her a variety of awards.[1]

Other academic responsibilities[edit]

Happé is President (2013–15) and Board Member (2012–16) of the International Society for Autism Research, and she has been a member of the National Autistic Society's "Autism in Maturity" Advisory Group since 2011. In 2013 she became President of the International Society for Autism Research. She has held several editorial roles, as joint Editor for Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (2000-2006), editorial board member of Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2001-2010) and Mind and Language (ongoing). She regularly referees for various journals including; Biological Psychiatry, Child Development, Cognition, Developmental Psychology, Developmental Science, JAACAP, JCCP, Nature Neuroscience, Trends in Cognitive Sciences.[1]

Media and public engagement[edit]

She has contributed to the public understanding of science with television appearances including BBC QED, Open University, and Horizon, as well as radio interviews for World Service, BBC and ABC. Her articles have appeared in the science section of The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, la Repubblica and New Scientist. She was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary in the 4Learning Living Science series entitled A Living Mind, which was accompanied by curriculum materials for 11 to 14 years olds.[1]




Happé is the author of a popular introductory book on autism for students, parents and professionals entitled, Autism: An Introduction to Psychological Theory,[7] which has been translated into several languages. She is also the creator of a series of children's science books entitled My Mum's a Scientist.

Academic papers[edit]

Professor Happé has a h index or 43, has published more than 130 peer-reviewed papers, over 20 of which have more than 100 citations.[8]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Fletcher, P.C., Happé, F., Frith, U., Baker, S.C., Dolan, R.J., Frackowiak, R.S.J. & Frith, C.D. (1995) Other minds in the brain: A functional imaging study of "theory of mind" in story comprehension. Cognition, 57, 109-128.
  • Happé, F., Ehlers, S., Fletcher, P., Frith, U., Johansson, M., Gillberg, C., Dolan, R., Frackowiak, R. & Frith, C. (1996) "Theory of mind" in the brain. Evidence from a PET scan study of Asperger syndrome. NeuroReport, 8, 197-201.
  • Happé, F. (1999) Autism: Cognitive deficit or cognitive style? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 3, 216-222.
  • Happé, F., Ronald, A. & Plomin, R. (2006) Time to give up on a single explanation for autism. Nature Neuroscience, 9, 1218-20.
  • Hallett, V., Ronald, A., Rijsdijk, F. & Happé F. (2010) Association of autistic-like and internalizing traits during childhood: a longitudinal twin study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 167, 809-17.
  • Charman, T., Jones, C.R., Pickles, A., Simonoff, E., Baird, G. & Happé, F. (2011). Defining the cognitive phenotype of autism. Brain Research, 1380, 10-21.
  • Robinson, E.B., Koenen, K.C., McCormick, M.C., Munir, K., Hallett, V., Happé, F., Plomin, R. & Ronald, A. (2012). A multivariate twin study of autistic traits in 12-year-olds: testing the fractionable autism triad hypothesis. Behavior Genetics, 42, 245-255.
  • Dworzynski, K., Ronald, A., Bolton, P. & Happé, F. (2012) How different are girls and boys above and below the diagnostic threshold for autism spectrum disorders? J. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
  • Robinson, E.B., Lichtenstein, P., Anckarsäter, H., Happé, F. & Ronald, A. (in press) Examining and interpreting the female protective effect against autistic behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Professor Francesca G Happe". Institute of Psychiatry website. Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. 15 October 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "School Memories". Acclaim. Royal Society. Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Happe Francesca". LinkedIn. LinkedIn. 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "Francesca Happé". Psychreg. Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  5. ^ "Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award and Lecture". Royal Society website. Royal Society. 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  6. ^ "British Academy announces 42 new fellows". Times Higher Education. 18 July 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Autism: An introduction to psychological theory (1995) Psychology Press/ Harvard University Press
  8. ^ "Francesca Happe".