Colin MacLeod

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Colin MacLeod
BA (McGill University)

PhD (University of Washington)

Contact information

Fellow, Royal Society of Canada

Fellow, Canadian Psychological Association

Fellow, American Psychological Association (Divisions 1 and 3)

Fellow, Association for Psychological Science

Fellow, The Psychonomic Society

Recipient, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2017 Outstanding Performance Award

Memory, Attention and Cognition Lab (MACL)

Graduate Program in Cognitive Psychology at UWaterloo

PsychSoc’s ‘The Professor Network’ Interview

Research interests

Throughout my career, my research has emphasized the broad domain of human cognition, with particular focus on attention, learning, and memory. Initially, my work was in the area of verbal learning and memory, with emphasis on long-term memory structure and process, and especially in intentional forgetting, a topic which I have continued to study. Subsequently, I also became interested in individual differences in cognition, highlighting how people differ in their linguistic and spatial skills and strategies. Some of this work revolved around basic processes involved in reading. These domains then led me to a continuing interest in the area of attention. Primarily, this research has concerned the development of skill (automaticity) through learning/practice, particularly using the Stroop colour-word interference measure as a model task. More recently, my memory research has emphasized the role of consciousness in memory and the distinction between indirect tests of memory (implicit measures that do not require conscious awareness) and direct tests of memory (explicit measures that do require conscious awareness). Most recently, my lab has been exploring the production effectthat having said things out loud helps in remembering them—and contingency learning—developing implicit associations between relevant and irrelevant information.  I continue to be fascinated by the interplay between attention and memory, and the role that learning plays in that interaction.

Selected publications (last 5 years)

(Note: These and all other publications are available for download as PDFs from my lab website; see the link above.)

  • MacLeod, C. M. (2020). Zeigarnik and von Restorff: The memory effects and the stories behind them. Memory & Cognition, 48, 1073-1088
  • Forrin, N. D., Ralph, B. C. W., Dhaliwal, N. K., Smilek, D., & MacLeod, C. M. (in press).  Wait for it … performance anticipation imposes a cost on memory.  Journal of Memory and Language.
  • Roberts, B. R. T., Fernandes, M. A., & MacLeod, C. M. (2020).  Re-evaluating whether bilateral eye movements influence memory retrieval.  PLoS ONE, 15, e0227790.
  • Pritchard, V. E., Heron-Delaney, M., Malone, S. A., & MacLeod, C. M. (2020).  The production effect improves memory in 7 to 10-year-old children.  Developmental Psychology, 91, 901-913.

  • Smith, A. C., Ralph, B. C. W., MacLeod, C. M., & Smilek, D. (2019).  Test feedback and learning:  Student preferences and perceived influence.  Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 5, 255-264.

  • MacLeod, C. M. (2019).  Learning simple associations.  Canadian Psychology, 60, 3-13.

  • Jonker, T. R., Wammes, J., & MacLeod, C. M. (2019).  Drawing enhances item information but undermines sequence information in memory.  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45, 689-699.

  • Jonker, T. R., & MacLeod, C. M. (2018).  Two sources of information in reconstructing event sequence.  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 44, 1013-1022.

  • Forrin, N. D., & MacLeod, C. M. (2018).  Cross-modality translations improve recognition by reducing false alarms.  Memory, 26, 53-58.

  • Forrin, N. D., & MacLeod, C. M. (2018).  This time it’s personal:  The memory benefit of hearing oneself.  Memory, 26, 574-579.

  • Forrin, N. D., & MacLeod, C. M. (2018).  Contingency proportion systematically influences contingency learning.  Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 80, 155-165.

  • Lin, O. Y.-H., & MacLeod, C. M. (2018).  The acquisition of simple associations as observed in color-word contingency learning.  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 44, 99-106.

  • Forrin, N. D., & MacLeod, C. M. (2017).  Relative speed of processing determines color-word contingency learning.  Memory & Cognition, 45, 1206-1222.

  • MacLeod, C. M., & Bodner, G. E. (2017).  The production effect in memory.  Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26, 390-395.

  • MacLeod, C. M., & Risko, E. F.  (2017).  Radical cognitivism?  Distinguishing behavior from thought.  Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 6, 22-26.

  • Francis, W. S., MacLeod, C. M., & Taylor, R. S. (2017).  Joint influence of visual and auditory words in the Stroop task.  Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 79, 200-211.

  • Jonker, T. R., & MacLeod, C. M. (2017).  Not all order memory is equal:  Test demands reveal dissociations in memory for sequence information.  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43, 177-188.

  • Bodner, G. E., & MacLeod, C. M. (2016).  The benefits of studying by production … and of studying production:  Introduction to the special issue on the production effect in memory.  Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 89-92.

  • Forrin, N. D., Groot, B., & MacLeod, C. M. (2016). The d-Prime directive: Assessing costs and benefits in recognition by dissociating mixed-list false alarm rates. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42, 1090-1111.
  • Forrin, N. D., & MacLeod, C. M. (2016). Auditory presentation at test does not diminish the production effect in recognition. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 116-124. 
  • Forrin, N. D., & MacLeod, C. M. (2016). Order information is used to guide recall of long lists: Further evidence for the item-order account. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 125-138.

Teaching interests

  • Introductory Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Attention & Memory

Professional memberships

  • Psychonomic Society
  • Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science
  • Association for Psychological Science
  • American Psychological Association
  • Canadian Psychological Association