Matthew Lerner, Ph.D.

Matthew D. Lerner, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
PhD, University of Virginia

Phone:(631) 632-7660

Department of Psychology
Office: Psychology B-354
Lab: Psychology A-140



University of Chicago, Dept. of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience

Child Clinical Psychology/Pediatric Neuropsychology

2012 – 2013

University of Illinois – Chicago, Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities

2012 – 2013

University of Virginia, Dept. of Psychology

Child Clinical Psychology

2007 – 2013

Current Position

           I am an Assistant Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, & Pediatrics, and Director of the Social Competence and Treatment Lab at Stony Brook University. I also Coordinate the Stony Brook Autism Research Group, in interdisciplinary team of investigators at Stony Brook with an interest in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). My role is to conduct translational and clinical research involving children and adults with ASD and related social challenges, to engage the local ASD community in these research efforts to ensure their practical utility, and to train graduate students, undergraduates, residents, and fellows in these and similar efforts.


           The core of my research program focuses on understanding the nature of peer relations and social competency deficits that emerge in childhood and adolescence. Incorporating contemporary methodologies including advanced quantitative methods (e.g., multilevel modeling, growth curve modeling), electrophysiology (i.e. EEG/ERP), and multi-method assessment (i.e., observational, diagnostic, and self-report measures), my research examines perceptual, neural, cognitive, affective, and behavioral underpinnings of social dysfunction and peer rejection in youth. For instance, I am interested in the interplay of EEG-indexed social perception and behavioral indicators of emotion perception in predicting observer- and self-reported social functioning. I also consider whether predictors of variability in such report across informants (self, teacher, parent, observer) provide insight into the nature of subjective social functioning across contexts.

I have focused particularly on social behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These children experience substantial peer-rejection, and understanding these processes in clinical population may provide insights into variability in social behavior in typically-developing children. Additionally, I consider these processes as a way to develop novel models and an empirical taxonomy of social deficits in youth.

I use findings from this basic research to inform development of novel interventions to improve social competency in clinical and community settings. My work thus far has focused on effectiveness and efficacy studies examining existing interventions and novel interventions (e.g. Socio-dramatic Affective Relational Intervention) and considering relative effectiveness. I also focus on elucidating common factors that may underlie these interventions to identify essential processes and evidence-based intervention practices, as opposed to evidence-based treatment packages, thereby facilitating dissemination of comprehensible empirical treatment research.

I have a related interest in the processes that facilitate change in the course of clinical interventions, particularly those therapies that focus on remediating social problems. I am interested in predictors of individual difference in treatment response (i.e. moderators) and in-session change processes (i.e. mediators) that may be useful in customizing, individualizing, and optimizing such interventions. My research often focuses on two substantive domains:

1. Therapeutic Relationship (alliance). The relationship between the therapist and client has long been shown to be an important predictor of change in traditional models of psychotherapy. In my work, I examine this relationship in the context of interventions to to improve peer relations in ADHD and social skills in ASD to test a theoretical treatment model positing that therapeutic relationships may be effectively leveraged to improve social relationships. I also examine the effects of conceptually-linked therapeutic relationships, such as parent-therapist alliance, and within-group cohesion.

2. Intervention content/fidelity. Social skills interventions draw from a range of theoretically-driven models to effect change in social deficits. The relative contribution of these models, and their consequent intervention strategies as applied in the treatment context, has not yet been examined empirically. A significant component of my research focuses on examining existing interventions and deriving information about the relative contribution of different activity types (e.g. didactic instruction vs. in vivo practice) to clinically-relevant outcomes to better design and implement interventions. Relatedly, I examine fidelity and other component processes to hone in on "active ingredients" that are unique to or common across disparate interventions.

Finally, I subscribe to the biopsychosocial model of functioning and behavior; as such, I believe it is vital to understand and model the unique neural processes that underlie and sustain functional deficits, including social behavior. I thus employ methods from affective and social human neuroscience to elucidate the neuroplastic processes underlying social problems in autism spectrum disorders (e.g. abnormal temporoparietal junction functioning in fMRI during Theory of Mind tasks; delayed N170 ERP latencies when observing faces) as both indices of social perception and cognition, as well as targets and moderators of outcomes for intervention.

Clinical Trials

Electrophysiological Effects of Social Performance-based Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial



Best Submission & Keynote Address, Association for Behavioral & Cognitive Therapies, Autism Spectrum Disorders & Developmental Disabilities Special Interest Group

Best Clinical/Behavioral Dissertation, International Society for Autism Research

Director's Early Independence Award - Finalist, National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Young Investigator Award, International Society for Autism Research

Distinguished Reviewer, Behavior Therapy

Representative Publications (out of >35)

  • Lerner MD, White SW, McPartland JC. Mechanisms of change in psychosocial interventions for autism spectrum disorders. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2012 Sep;14(3):307-18. PubMed PMID: 23226955; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3513684.
  •  Lerner MD, Calhoun CD, Mikami AY, De Los Reyes A. Understanding parent-child social informant discrepancy in youth with high functioning autism spectrum disorders. J Autism Dev Disord. 2012 Dec;42(12):2680-92. PubMed PMID: 22456819.
  • Lerner MD, McPartland JC, Morris JP. Multimodal emotion processing in autism spectrum disorders: an event-related potential study. Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2013 Jan;3:11-21. PubMed PMID: 23245216.
  • Lerner MD, Potthoff LM, Hunter SJ. Optimizing Cross-Sectional Prediction of Social Functioning in Youth Referred for Neuropsychological Testing. PLoS One. 2015;10(5):e0128303. PubMed PMID: 26011533.
  • Lerner MD, Hutchins TL, Prelock PA. Brief report: preliminary evaluation of the theory of mind inventory and its relationship to measures of social skills. J Autism Dev Disord. 2011 Apr;41(4):512-7. PubMed PMID: 20628800.
  • Lerner MD, McPartland JC, Morris JP. Multimodal emotion processing in autism spectrum disorders: an event-related potential study. Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2013 Jan;3:11-21. PubMed PMID: 23245216.
  • White SW,+ Lerner MD,+ McLeod BD, Wood JJ, Ginsburg GS, Kerns C, Ollendick T, Kendall PC, Piacentini J, Walkup J, Compton S. Anxiety in youth with and without autism spectrum disorder: examination of factorial equivalence. Behav Ther. 2015 Jan;46(1):40-53. PubMed PMID: 25526834; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4273846. +Shared first-authorship.
  • Mikami AY, Lerner MD, Lun J. Social context influences on children’s rejection by their peers. Child development perspectives. 2010; 42(2):123 - 130.Lerner MD, Haque OS, Northrup EC, Lawer L, Bursztajn HJ. Emerging perspectives on adolescents and young adults with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders, violence, and criminal law. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2012;40(2):177-90. PubMed PMID: 22635288.
  • Lillard AS, Lerner MD, Hopkins EJ, Dore RA, Smith ED, Palmquist CM. The impact of pretend play on children's development: a review of the evidence. Psychol Bull. 2013 Jan;139(1):1-34. PubMed PMID: 22905949.
  • Lerner MD, Mikami AY, McLeod BD. The alliance in a friendship coaching intervention for parents of children with ADHD. Behav Ther. 2011 Sep;42(3):449-61. PubMed PMID: 21658527; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3487166.
  • Lerner MD, Mikami AY. A preliminary randomized controlled trial of two social skills interventions for youth with high functioning autism spectrum disorders. Focus on autism and other developmental disabilities. 2012; 27:145 - 155.
  • McMahon CM, Lerner MD, Britton N. Group-based social skills interventions for adolescents with higher-functioning autism spectrum disorder: a review and looking to the future. Adolesc Health Med Ther. 2013 Jan 22;2013(4):23-28. PubMed PMID: 23956616; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3744120.


PubMed Publications