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Dr Roberto Filippi
Woburn Square
Dr Roberto Filippi profile picture
  • Associate Professor
  • IOE - Psychology & Human Development
  • UCL Institute of Education

I joined Academia in 2007, after a successful 31-year career in marketing, IT business and finance. I bring senior professional managerial and leadership experience of the private sector together with interdisciplinary knowledge of marketing, education, neuroimaging and human communication science to both my research and my teaching. This unique set of skills has allowed me to take on leadership roles in research, teaching and mentoring. I have worked effectively with research collaborators, producing high-quality output, delivering high-standard teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and generating substantial research income. 

I am: 

•Director of UCL Multilanguage & Cognition Lab (MULTAC)

•Founder and Co-Director of Bilingualism Matters London

•Research Associate, Centre for Educational Neuroscience, Birkbeck-UCL

•Board member, Centre for Language, Literacy and Numeracy, IoE

•Research affiliate, Developmental and Neurocognition Lab, Birkbeck

•Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

•External Examiner at Birkbeck, University of London, School of Psychological Sciences

Research Summary

My primary research interest focuses on multilingual acquisition and its effects on cognitive control, memory and metacognitive processing from infancy to older age.

My work on multilingualism has been heavily inspired by historical debates among philosophers, linguists, psychologists and educators, where second language acquisition, especially in children, was considered detrimental for cognitive development, an idea that unfortunately has paved its way into today’s thinking that multilingual learners have "special needs". In fact, in my professional contacts with parents, I frequently find educators who discourage multilingual families to raise their children as multilinguals because ‘two languages in a single mind will delay their "normal" cognitive development’.

My work shows unequivocally that multilingual acquisition is not detrimental for cognitive and linguistic development and enables education practitioners and policy makers to make informed decisions on the importance of second language learning in childhood and lifelong education. 

I have been the first to apply a developmental method of investigation embracing the whole lifespan to the study of multilingualism. I use a convergence of experimental methodologies including behavioural tasks, neuroimaging (magnetic resonance imaging – MRI), eye-tracking and computational modelling. 

By using brain imaging of large, well-matched samples of multilingual and monolingual speakers, I have provided new and robust evidence about how a multilinguistic experience can change brain structure and function. A better understanding of functional anatomy is particularly important for rehabilitation therapies following brain damage.

I have significantly contributed to dissipate the misleading belief that acquiring multiple languages in early stages of life can be detrimental. In particular, the evidence that I provided has shown that multilingualism may be particularly beneficial within the disadvantaged population: my recent work has provided empirical evidence that low socio-economic status bilingual speakers outperform monolingual peers in crucial executive function skills. This evidence is vital to promote second language learning in the more deprived areas of our societies in which the pandemic has impacted on the population.

Recently, I have broadened my area of research from the classical WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic) populations, to ongoing projects targeting multicultural, multilingual and socio-economic diversity. I firmly believe that a complete understanding of the ontogeny and phylogeny of the developing human mind depends on sampling diversity. In 2021, in collaboration with Prof. Li Wei, I obtained UCL Global Exchange Funds to establish a partnership with Beit Berl College in Israel to study the attainment gap among the Arab-Israeli disadvantaged pupils after the pandemic in Israel, and propose new interventions based on blended learning and parental engagement to Israeli policy makers.

I have built a network of 14 primary 21 secondary and 2 Special schools in Cambridgeshire through a proactive collaboration with multi-academy Trusts. This collaboration has already produced significant results. In 2021, in collaboration with the UCL Centre for Inclusive Education, I obtained Higher Education and Innovation funds (HEIF) to carry out a knowledge exchange project in collaboration with 4 primary schools in Cambridgeshire. The project aims to support teachers in their language interaction and communication with children in reception classes in schools with high density of multilingual families. I am also extending my research interest to genetic methodologies, including behavioural and molecular genetics.

Teaching Summary

I am the Programme Leader for the MSc Child Development.

My teaching is in the area of language, bilingualism and cognitive psychology. I contribute to undergraduate programmes, the Graduate Certificate in Psychology and to the Master's programmes in the Psychology cluster offered by the Department. My teaching style is engaging, supportive and always seeking interaction from students.  I have taught and led a broad range of subjects at both MSc and BSc levels. 

Current  teaching at UCL - Institute of Education:


MSc Child Development - Enrichment Sessions

MSc Educational Neuroscience - Issues in Educational Neuroscience 

MSc Psychology of Education - Core topics in Psychology of Education

MSc Psychology of Education - Cognitive Development and Learning

MA Special and Inclusive Education - Atypical Development

Psychology Graduate Certificate - Cognitive Psychology

BSc Psychology with Education - Cognitive Psychology

BSc Psychology with Education -  Special and Inclusive Education

Previous Teaching experience:

Anglia Ruskin University

Module Leader

2015/2016 - Language & Thought - Year 3 B.3Sc. in Psychology

2014/2015 - Language & Thought - Year 3 B.Sc. in Psychology

2013/2014 - Language & Thought - Year 3 B.Sc. in Psychology

2012/2013 - Language & Thought - Year 3 B.Sc. in Psychology

2012/2013 - Fundamentals of Cognitive Psychology - Year 1 B.Sc. in Psychology

2011/2012 – The Psychology of Everyday Life - Year 1 B.Sc. in Psychology

2011/2012 – Personality, Intelligence & Psychometrics - Year 2 B.Sc. in Psychology

Module Tutor

2013/2014 - Fundamentals of Cognitive Psychology - Year 1 B.Sc. in Psychology

2012/2013 – Time management & Presentation Skills - MSc. in Psychology

2012/2013 - Research Techniques for Psychology - Year 2 B.Sc. in Psychology

2012/2013 – The Psychology of Everyday Life - Year 1 B.Sc. in Psychology

2011/2012 - Language & Thought - Year 3 B.Sc. in Psychology

2011/2012 - Neuropsychology - Year 3 B.Sc. in Psychology

2011/2012 - Fundamentals of Cognitive Psychology - Year 1 B.Sc. in Psychology

University College London

2010-2011: Sessional Lecturer – Year 2 B.Sc. in Psychology – Language & Cognition module (12 Lectures) 

Birkbeck, University of London

2009 – 2010: Lectured on the Year 4 B.Sc. in Psychology, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience module: Language and Bilingualism

2009 – 2010: Lectured on the Year 1 B.Sc. in Psychology, General Foundations module: Language Development

2008 – 2009: Lectured on the Year 4 B.Sc. in Psychology, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience module: Language and Bilingualism

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