Vasu Reddy completed her Bachelors degree in Psychology, English Literature and Political Science (1975) and Masters in Psychology (1977) in Hyderabad India, and then went to Edinburgh University to do a PhD.
She has been interested in the origins and development of social cognition, mainly in young infants for three decades now, and has been exploring the role of emotional engagement in social understanding. She focuses on everyday, ordinary engagements (such as teasing and joking and showing-off or feeling shy) which often tend to get ignored in mainstream theories. Her interest in engagement as the route to understanding has led her to questions about the nature and influence of culture on social understanding (she has published, for instance, on parental directives and infant responses in the first year of infancy). She is Director of the Centre for Situated Action and Communication at the University of Portsmouth in the UK and is currently Chair of the Developmental Section of the British Psychological Society.
Partly in the context of a European consortium studying scientific bases of intersubjectivity (funded by the Marie Curie Foundation) she has become fascinated by kinematics and motor development, studying anticipatory body adjustments – such as by infants when adults approach in order to pick them up, or adults when anticipating specific intentional actions from others. Building on her infancy work as well as a recent grant from the Templeton Foundation on Intellectual Humility, she has been exploring emotional openness and the genuineness of connection in everyday life. Her book How Infants Know Minds published by Harvard University Press argues for a second-person approach to knowing minds, a dialogical and emotion-based route to an old problem. She is intrigued by questions of how engagement must constantly either alternate or somehow integrate with dis-engagement, a phenomenon particularly apparent in play and humour, but also in every conversational encounter.