Gary has been at NTU since 2006 and is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology. His research examines how real-world experience affects task behaviour and has been published in journals such as Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Psychological Science, and Cognitive Psychology. He teaches on modules across both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and has a number of administrative roles – he leads the Language and Psycholinguistics Research Group, is a member of the Department’s REF steering group, and is the PhD co-ordinator for the Department.
Gary obtained his BSc in Artificial Intelligence and Psychology in 1995 (first class with hons) at the University of Nottingham and stayed there to complete his PhD (awarded 1999) in ‘Using cognitive architectures to examine what develops’. After completing a further 18 months at Nottingham involving postdoctoral experience examining language acquisition, he moved to the University of Derby in 2000 to take up his first lecturer post and from there he joined NTU in 2006.
Gary’s research investigates how children and adults use their experience of the world to influence their task behavior. He usually works within the domain of language, mainly because one can estimate linguistic experience by using corpora that approximate the type of speech that children and adults hear. This work has shown that performance on a range of tasks is a reflection of existing linguistic knowledge gained from learning associations across language rather than (for example) increases in memory capacity across development.
Implications from this work raise a number of questions such as how children’s language learning is influenced by the quantity and quality of speech from primary caregivers; whether understanding of teaching and learning materials could be optimized based on the likely linguistic knowledge of children and adults; whether training programmes could be developed that capitalize on the type of associative learning taking place, particularly in areas where associative learning is paramount (e.g., sound-symbol mappings and regular/irregular form mappings when learning to read); and how individual differences in one’s ability to learn influences the language learning process, with a particular focus on discovering how learning could be improved for a substantial number of children who have difficulties in language acquisition.
Gary has a number of roles outside of NTU:
- Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Peer College Review member
- ESRC Plus 3 Doctoral Training Partnership Assessor
- Associate Editor, Frontiers in Cognitive Science
- Member of editorial board, First Language
- Member of the External Advisory Board for the Centre for Studies in Human Development (Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Porto, Portugal).
Sponsors and collaborators
Gary’s work has been funded by The Leverhulme Trust and the Experimental Psychology Society. He has a number of collaborators such as Prof. Bill Macken (Cardiff University), Prof. Caroline Rowland (Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen), and Prof. Stephanie Stokes (Hong Kong).