Shanna Williams

Academic title(s): 

Assistant Professor, Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology

Shanna Williams
Contact Information

Education Building, room 529

Email address: 
shanna.williams [at]
Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology

Dr. Williams is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology at McGill University. Prior to joining the Department, she was a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law. As a registered psychologist in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, Dr. Williams has clinical experience in hospital, school and community agencies. She has worked with maltreated populations while conducting forensic interviews for various law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles. Her research has been supported through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.


Postdoctoral Visiting Fellow, University of Southern California

Ph.D., McGill University: School/Applied Child Psychology

M.A., McGill University: Educational Psychology

B.A., McGill University: Major Psychology 

Areas of expertise: 

Lie-Telling, Commercial Sexual  Exploitation of Children, Moral Development, Cognitive Development, Eye Witness Testimony, Child Sexual Abuse, Child Maltreatment

Current research: 

Dr. Williams's research centers on the application of cognitive theories to children’s social-emotional development, with a specific interest in children’s lie-telling and the promotion of honesty. Recently, she has transferred this interest to disclosure processes (i.e., ways to improve investigations of abuse), with a specific emphasis on the forensic interviewing methods used with children. Her research now focuses on the questioning of children with the ultimate goal of improving how abuse allegations are investigated, thus protecting children and families. Overall, her research bridges developmental and forensic sciences.

Awards, honours, and fellowships: 

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship (2016-2017)

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Fellowship (2010-2013)

Fonds de Recherché Société et Culture (FRQSC) Doctoral Research Scholarship - Declined (2010)

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Joseph-Armand Bombardier Master’s Scholarship (2008)

Graduate supervision: 

School/Applied Child Psychology

Selected publications: 

Referred Journal Articles:

Williams, S., McWilliams, K., & Lyon, T. D. (2020). Children’s recall disclosure of a minor transgression: The role of age, maltreatment, and executive functioning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. Advanced online publication.

McWilliams, K., Soltzenberg, S. N., Williams, S., & Lyon, T. D. (2019). Increasing maltreated and nonmaltreated children’s recall disclosures of a minor transgression: The effects of back-channel utterances, a promise to tell the truth, and an incremental putative confession. Child Abuse & Neglect (Special Issue). Advance online publication.

Stolzenberg, S. N., Williams, S., McWilliams., Liang, C., & Lyon, T. D. (2019). “What did you think?” “How did you feel?” Encouraging Evaluative Content in Children’s Disclosures of Abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect (Special Issue). Advance online publication.

Nagar, P., Williams, S., & Talwar, V. (2019). The influence of an older sibling on preschoolers’ lie‐telling behavior. Social Development. Advance online publication. doi:10.1111/sode.12367

Williams, S., Ahern, E., & Lyon, T. D. (2019). The Relation Between Young Children’s False Statements and Response Latency, Executive Functioning, and Truth Lie Understanding. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly., 65, 81-100. doi: 10.13110/merrpalmquar1982.65.1.0081

Leduc, K., Williams, S., Gomez-Garibello, C., & Talwar, V. (2017). The contributions of mental state understanding and executive functioning to preschool-aged children's lie-telling. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 35, 288-302. doi:10.1111/bjdp.12163

Williams, S., Leduc, K., Crossman, A., & Talwar, V. (2017). Young Deceivers: Executive Functioning and Antisocial Lie‐telling in Preschool Aged Children. Infant and Child Development, 26, e1956. doi: 10.1002/icd.1956

Talwar, V., Williams, S., Renaud, S. J., Arruda, C., & Saykaly, C. (2016). Children’s Evaluations of Tattles, Confessions, Prosocial and Antisocial Lies. International Review of Pragmatics, 8, 334-352. doi:10.1163/18773109-00802007

Williams, S., Moore, K., Crossman, A. M., & Talwar, V. (2016). The role of executive functions and theory of mind in children’s prosocial lie-telling. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 141, 256-266. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2015.08.001

Williams, S., Talwar, V., Lindsay, R. C. L., Bala, N., & Lee, K. (2014). Is the truth in your words? Distinguishing children’s deceptive and truthful statements. Journal of Criminology, 2014.

Williams, S., Kirmayer, M., Simon, T., & Talwar, V. (2013). Children’s antisocial and prosocial lies to familiar and unfamiliar adults. Infant and Child Development, 22, 430-438. doi:10.1002/icd.1802

Talwar, V., Crossman, A, Williams, S., & Muir, S. (2011). Adult detection of children’s selfish and polite lies: Experience matters. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41, 2837-2857. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00861.x

Talwar, V., Crossman, A, Gulmi, J., Renuad, S-J., & Williams, S. (2009). Pants on fire? Detecting children’s lies. Applied Developmental Science, 13, 119-129. doi:10.1080/10888690903041519

Book Chapter:

Lyon, T.D., McWilliams, K., & Williams, S. (2019). Child Witnesses. In (N. Brewer & A.B. Douglass, eds.) Psychology & the Law. New York, NY: Guilford.



Selected talks and presentations: 

Fessinger, M., McWilliams, K., Williams, S., & Lyon, T.D. (2019, June). Maltreated children’s biases when making relative temporal judgments.
Presented at the meeting of the Society of Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, Cape Cod, MA.


Professional Memberships

American Psychological Association

American Psychology-Law Society

Quebec Order of Psychologists

College of Psychologists of Ontario

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