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Cara DiYanni Ph.D.


Cara DiYanni, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Rider University. Her main research interests include early childhood cognitive development, imitation, social learning, play, and imagination.

Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Cara left to attend college at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. There, she was inspired by her Introduction to Psychology professor – who told the class never to ‘work’ for a living, and to find something to do that made them feel the same about Mondays as they did about Fridays. This philosophy stuck with her, and she decided to follow in his footsteps and become a psychology professor herself.

Cara attended graduate school at Boston University, where she earned her Ph.D. after completing a series of studies examining children’s willingness – or unwillingness – to imitate a model’s actions even when they made no sense (e.g., when a model intentionally chose to crush a cookie with a tool made of soft fuzzy pom-poms even when a more suitable, solid tool was available). She then spent two years teaching as a Visiting Professor of Psychology at Providence College, before moving to New Jersey to begin her tenure at Rider. She continues to do research in the areas of imitation and play (see some of her publications here). Cara also directs the honors program at Rider. She loves her job and the students she works with – and never truly feels like her job is ‘work.’

Cara lives with her husband and her two children. She enjoys going to movies with her family (or just watching them at home together on the couch), game nights, traveling (some of her favorite destinations so far include Thailand, Cambodia, Peru, and Iceland), running with her daughter, coaching the kids’ soccer teams, and watching her son aspiring to be a rock ‘n’ roll drummer.

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