Consortium on Individual Development


Research program (C. Kemner) from Utrecht nominated for Huibregtsen Prize 2016

The research programme How does a baby’s brain become social? by Professor of Biological Developmental Psychology Chantal Kemner has been nominated for the prestigious Huibregtsen Prize 2016. The prize is meant for recent research programmes that are both scientifically renewing and socially relevant.

The Huibregtsen Prize Jury, which was presided over by KNAW President José van Dijck, has nominated six of the 23 submitted research programmes. The winner will be revealed on De Avond van Wetenschap & Maatschappij (The Evening of Science & Society), held in the the Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) in The Hague, and will be given a sculpture of The Thinker and a sum of € 25,000.00 to spend on research by State Secretary Sander Dekker.


With her research programme, Kemner wants to discover how the ability to process social signals develops. The Utrecht-based Professor showed with research into social-contact related problems that there are differences in autistic people when it comes to early visual processing of social information (perception of faces and emotions). Her innovative way of thinking took research into autism to a higher level.


But Kemner has bigger plans: she is convinced that individual treatment of autistic people will only be meaningful as soon as we understand the normal development of social behaviour and its relation to brain development. This is why she focuses on the question how a baby’s brain becomes social. As babies are difficult to test, she has developed different instruments for baby research. The Huibregtsen Prize Jury believes Kemner’s multidisciplinary and integrated approach (developmental psychology, pedagogy, neurocognition and neurobiology) results in exciting science.


In its report, the jury speaks of beautiful longitudinal research coming from the KinderKennisCentrum (ChildResearchCenter)that Kemner has founded and currently leads, and is convinced of the research programme’s social relevance: “Helping children to develop well by guiding them more effectively and improving care for children with behavioural problems make for a better society. The original and trail-blazing way in which Kemner shapes these goals is worthy of praise.”

The other nominees can be found on the Huibregtsen Prize website.