Professor Ian McLaren
Professor of Cognitive Psychology


Professor of Cognitive Psychology in the School of Psychology. My interests are broadly in the area of Learning, Memory and Cognition, in combination with Computational Modelling. I'm particularly interested in comparisons between humans and other species that attempt to identify common learning processes in each, and actively attempt to transfer research paradigms from infra-human to human and vice-versa to generate data that supports these comparisons. Recent projects I've been involved in include work on Peak-Shift (which reflects my interest in how automatic, associative processes can influence decision making), Categorisation in humans and pigeons, Sequence Learning and modelling of same using the SRN and its variants, the Perruchet Effect and Human Pavlovian Coditioning, Face Perception (particularly inversion effects), Perceptual Learning (how experience with stimuli can lead to expertise in discriminating between them) and Judgements of Recency and Frequency. Perhaps the main area I'm focussing on at the moment concerns how Cognitive Control interfaces with Associative Learning (as part of CCAL), and here I'm particularly interested in how Automaticity develops. I also work as part of the CRITICAL group on how inhibition training can be applied to a variety of impulse disorders such as gambling and over-eating. If I had to identify a theme that unifies my work at the moment, it would be that our behaviour can best be described as some synthesis of rule-based symbolic action and associatively-based experience-driven reaction. I perform experiments that seek to dissociate these processes, and construct computational models that attempt to combine them in order to predict the results of the experiments.


My post-school education was all at King's College, Cambridge in the UK. Here I studied Theoretical Physics as part of the Natural Sciences Tripos, then Psychology at Undergraduate level, before taking a PhD under the supervision of Stephen Monsell (co-supervised by Nick Mackintosh) in the Department of Experimental Psychology (my thesis title was Association and Representation). I'm a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, the Eastern Psychological Association (USA) and the British Psychological Society, and a member of the Experimental Psychology Society, the Psychonomic Society and the Cognitive Science society.


Post-PhD I became a research Fellow at King's College in Cambridge. I then spent two years as a Lecturer at Warwick University, returned to Cambridge as a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer (and Fellow and Tutor at Emmanuel College) then arrived at Exeter to take the Chair in Cognitive Psychology. Whilst at Exeter I've served as Academic Lead for Animal Behaviour, Deputy Head of School and Head of School for Psychology, and am currently Group Lead for Cognition.

Research group links

Contact details

Internal tel4697
Tel+44 (0) 1392 724697
AddressWashington Singer Laboratories
University of Exeter
Perry Road
Prince of Wales Road
Office hours

Office Hours for Term 1 in 2017/18 are:

  • Mondays   13:00-14:00
  • Thursdays 14:30-15:30


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