Associate Professor, Cognitive Research Area Head

head shot of Dr. Evan RiskoB.A., M.A., Ph.D. (Waterloo)

Contact information

Cognition and Natural Behavior Laboratory

Named Canada Research Chair in Embodied and Embedded Cognition

Recipient of an Early Career Award from the Psychonomic Society

Recipient of the Early Career Award from the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science

Recipient of an Early Career Award from the Province of Ontario

Recipient 2014 and 2018 Outstanding Performance Award  

Dr. Risko’s research is funded by grants from the:

  • Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
  • Canada Foundation for Innovation
  • Ontario Research Fund
  • Province of Ontario
  • Canada Research Chairs Program

Research interests

Our recent research largely focuses on issues related to the embodied and embedded nature of cognition. Human cognition often involves, as an integral part, the manipulation of the body and/or physical environment. For example, we tilt our head to help us perceive ambiguous images, we gesture to facilitate communication, and we use our smartphones to store and search for information. In all such cases, internal processes (e.g., the transformation of mental representations) are closely coupled to external ones (e.g., the manipulation of the body/physical environment). From this perspective, we are trying to provide a deeper understanding of how we use our body and physical environment to help us think and how this coupling ultimately shapes our thinking. The broad nature of this problem leads us to address issues in many areas including attention, effort, metacognition, cognitive control, memory, human-computer interaction, and decision making. For more information here are a couple recent publications:

  • Risko, E. F & Gilbert, S. (2016). Cognitive offloading: Emerging trends and future directions. Trends in Cognitive Science, 20, 676-688.
  • Ferguson, A., McLean, D., & Risko, E. F.  (2015). Answers at your fingertips: Access to the Internet influences willingness to answer questions. Consciousness & Cognition, 37, 91-102.

We are also interested in using research in cognitive psychology to help improve practices in education. In particular, we have an active line of research investigating the characteristics of recorded lectures (e.g., like the ones used in online courses) that optimize learning. For example, we are interested in those features of lectures that reduce mind wandering and increase retention of to-be-learned material. This part of our research program marries basic research in cognition, technology, and the real world constraints of online courses in an effort to create what we refer to as a more attention-aware classroom. For more information here are a couple recent publications:

  • Risko, E. F., Buchanan, D., Medimorec, S., & Kingstone, A. (2013). Everyday attention: Mind wandering and computer use during lectures. Computers and Education, 68, 275-283.

  • Seli, P., Wammes, J. D., Risko, E. F., & Smilek, D. (2016). On the relation between motivation and retention in educational contexts: The role of intentional and unintentional mind-wandering. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 23, 1280-1287.

Recent publications:

In press

  • Risko, E. F., Kelly, M., Gaspar, C., & Patel, P. Offloading memory leaves us vulnerable to memory manipulation. Cognition.
  • Seli, P., Schacter, D. L., Risko, E. F., & Smilek, D. Increasing participant motivation reduces rates of mind-wandering. Psychological Research.
  • Dunn, T.L, Inzlicht, M., & Risko, E. F. Anticipating cognitive effort: Roles of perceived error-likelihood and time demands. Psychological Research.
  • Maloney, E. A., Barr, N., Risko, E. F., & Fugelsang, J. F. Working memory load dissociates common indices of the numerical distance effect: Implications for the study of numerical cognition. Journal of Numerical Cognition.
  • Risko, E. F. Examining the implications of Internet usage for memory and cognition: Prospects and promise. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.
  • Dunn, T.L., & Risko, E. F. Understanding the cognitive miser: Cue-utilization in effort avoidance.
  • Dunn, T.L., Gaspar, C., & Risko, E. F. (2019). Cue awareness in avoiding effortful control. Neuropsychologia, 4, 77-91.


  • Dunn, T.L., Gaspar, C., & Risko, E. F. (2019). Cue awareness in avoiding effortful control. Neuropsychologia, 4, 77-91.
  • Medimorec, S., Mander, C., & Risko, E. F. (2018). Memory demands in linguistic compensation. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 7, 1234-1239.
  • Lavigne, E., & Risko, E. F. (2018). Optimizing the use of interpolated tests: The influence of interpolated test lab. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 4, 211-221.
  • Wilson, K., Martin, L. Smilek, D., & Risko, E. F. (2018) The benefits and costs of speed watching video lectures. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 4, 243-257.
  • Martin, L., Mills, C., D’Mello, S., & Risko, E. F. (2018). Re-watching lectures as a study strategy and its effect on mind wandering. Experimental Psychology.
  • Seli, P., Carriere, J., Wammes, J. D., Risko, E.F., Schacter, D. L., & Smilek, D. (2018). On the clock: Evidence for the rapid and strategic modulation of mind wandering. Psychological Science, 29, 1247-1256.
  • Wilson, K. E., Martinez, M., Mills, C., D’Mello, S., Smilek, D. & Risko, E. F. (2018). Instructor presence effect: Liking does not always lead to learning. Computers and Education, 122, 205-220.
  • Forrin, N., Risko, E. F., & Smilek, D. (2018). On the relation between text difficulty and mind-wandering: A passage section-length account. Psychological Research, 65, 255-262.
  • Seli, P., Konishi, E. F., Risko, E.F., & Smilek, D. (2018). The role of task difficulty in theoretical accounts of mind wandering. Consciousness and Cognition, 65, 255-262.
  • Forrin, N., Risko, E. F., & Smilek, D. (2018). In the eye of the beholder: Evaluative context modulates mind wandering. Acta Psychologica, 185, 172-179.


  • Risko, E. F., & Kingstone, A. Everyday attention. (2017).Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71, 89-92.
  • Risko, E. F, Huh, M., McLean, D., & Ferguson, A. (2017). On the prospect of knowing: Providing solutions can reduce persistence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146, 1677-1693.
  • Seli, P., Ralph, B., Risko, E. F., Schooler, J., Schacter, D. L. & Smilek, D. (2017). Intentionality and meta-awareness of mind wandering: Are they one and the same, or distinct dimensions? Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 24, 1808-1818.
  • Dunn, T. L., Koehler, D., & Risko, E. F. (2017). Evaluating effort: Influences of evaluation mode on judgments of task-specific efforts. Behavioral Decision Making, 30, 869-888.
  • Medimorec, S., & Risko, E. F. (2017). Pauses in written composition: On the importance of where we pause. Reading and Writing, 30, 1267-1285.
  • Mills, C., Risko, E.F., Graesser, A.C., & D’Mello, S. K. (2017). Cognitive coupling during reading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146, 872-883.
  • MacLeod, C. M., & Risko, E. F. (2017). Radical cognitivism?  Distinguishing behavior from thought. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1, 22-26.
  • Seli, P., Risko, E. F., & Smilek, D. (2017). Intrusive thoughts: Linking spontaneous mind wandering and OCD symptomatology. Psychological Research, 2, 392-398.
  • Medimorec, S., Young, T., & Risko, E. F. (2017). Disfluency effects on lexical selection. Cognition, 158, 28-32.
  • Baker, D. A., Ware, J., Schweitzer, N. J. & Risko, E. F. (2017) Making sense of research on the neuroimage bias. Public Understanding of Science, 26, 251-258.
University of Waterloo

Profiles by type