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UK Fellow, Psychology, elected in 2009

Professor John Duncan FBA

Psychological and neural mechanisms of selective attention and general intelligence; with methods including cognitive psychology, studies of brain damage, functional brain imaging and neurophysiology
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About this Fellow

Following undergraduate and doctoral work at the University of Oxford (1970-1976), and a two year postdoc at the University of Oregon, John Duncan took up a research position with the Medical Research Council where he has remained ever since. He now holds joint appointments as Programme Leader at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, and Professorial Research Fellow in the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford. His work combines cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, neuroimaging, and single cell physiology, addressing problems of attention, intelligence and cognitive control. One programme, for example, concerns the widespread disorganization of thought and behaviour that can follow damage to the frontal lobes. Another uses single cell recording to ask how behaviour is controlled through the dynamic activity of large neural networks. A third relates frontal lobe functions to human reasoning, abstraction and intelligence. Much of this work is summarized in the popular science book How intelligence happens (2010). John Duncan is a Fellow of the Royal Society (2008) and of the British Academy (2009).



Current post

  • Programme Leader, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge


Visual search and stimulus similarity. 96, Psychological Review 1989


Neural mechanisms of selective visual attention. 18, Annual Review of Neuroscience 1995


Common regions of the human frontal lobe recruited by diverse cognitive demands. 23, Trends in Neurosciences 2000


How intelligence happens 2010


The structure of cognition: Attentional episodes in mind and brain. 80, Neuron 2013


A neural basis for general intelligence. 289. Science 2000


Other Psychology Fellows

Professor Nicholas Tarrier

The understanding of psychological and psychosocial mechanisms underlying mental disorders, particularly schizophrenia, psychoses and post-traumatic stress and the development and evaluation of psychological treatments to improve outcomes

Professor Janette Atkinson

Models of Visual brain development, underlying visual, spatial and social cognition in both typical and at-risk infants and children, including those with very premature birth and Williams Syndrome

Professor Elizabeth Spelke

Cognitive psychology and cognitive development, with special focus on the nature and origins of knowledge of material objects, animate beings, number, geometry, and the social world

Professor Mahzarin Banaji

Social cognition as it operates without conscious awareness or control and dissociated from intention and values; implicit bias arising from group memberships (age, class, ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality)