Jonathan Fawcett

B.Sc. (Hons), Ph.D. Dalhousie University
Assistant Professor

Office: SN3073
Phone: (709) 864-8020
Lab webpage:
Affiliations: Cognition



I completed my undergraduate and graduate work at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Following completion of my doctorate in Cognitive Psychology in 2012, I took up a four-year position at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England where I was also a Junior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge. I left my position there to join the Psychology Department at Memorial University of Newfoundland in September of 2016.

Research Interests

As humans, we have at our disposal a broad array of mental tools that we often take for granted. For example, in a noisy pub we are able to focus on what our friend is saying to us, filtering out ambient background noise in the process. We are also capable of retrieving and vividly re-experiencing events that happened to us in the distant past, despite the absence of actual sensory input. Either feat is commonplace to each of us, and yet they necessitate amazingly intricate mental processes just beyond the bounds of our conscious awareness. My research aims to unravel these mysteries by isolating the mental processes involved in everyday thought.

Although my interests are broad, my primary research focus has been on understanding the cognitive and neural basis of controlling unwanted thoughts or memories. For example, how is it that some people can be reminded of an unwanted experience and brush it off whereas others receive a similar reminder and find themselves caught ruminating over it for days? My past work suggests that variation in the relative strength of certain mental control processes across individuals play a role. Some people are simply better at controlling unwanted memories – as measured in the laboratory – and those individuals tend to be less affected by intrusions of the manner described above. I study this phenomenon in both general and clinical populations.

Beyond my work on memory control, I have also conducted research on eyewitness memory – and in particular a topic known as the Weapon Focus Effect. This effect refers to the finding that memory is impaired for events involving a weapon compared to comparable events not involving a weapon. Whereas someone might intuitively imagine this effect to be driven by how threatening the weapon is to the witness, laboratory evidence suggests that weapons are also often considered to be unusual in most contexts (e.g., you do not often see guns in grocery stores) and that this novelty also impairs eyewitness memory. I am interested in exploring the relative contributions of threat and novelty to this effect.

In addition to basic behavioural work, my laboratory is presently equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for eye tracking and electroencephalography (EEG). I am also interested in a variety of quantitative topics, including statistical and computational modelling. I welcome inquiries from students interested in any facet of cognition or cognitive neuroscience.

Representative Publications

Fawcett, J. M., Peace, K., & Greve, A. (2016). Looking down the barrel of a gun: What do we know about the weapon focus effect? Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 5, 257-263.

Fawcett, J. M. & Ouzbko, J. (2016). Familiarity, but not recollection, supports the between-subject production effect. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 99-115.

Fawcett, J. M., Lawrence, M. A. & Taylor, T. L. (2016). The representational consequences of intentional forgetting: Impairments to both the probability and fidelity of long-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145, 56-81.

Fawcett, J. M., Risko, E. F. & Kingstone, A. (2015). The Handbook of Attention. MIT Press.

Fawcett, J. M., Benoit, R. G., Gagnepain, P., Salman, A., Bartholdy, S., Bradley, C., Chan, D., Roche, A., Brewin, C. R., & Anderson, M. C. (2015). The origins of repetitive thought in rumination: Separating cognitive style from deficits in inhibitory control over memory. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 47, 1–8.

Huff, M. J., Bodner, G. E., & Fawcett, J. M. (2015). Effects of distinctive encoding on correct and false memory: A meta-analytic review of costs and benefits and their origins in the DRM paradigm. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22, 349–365.

White, N., Fawcett, J. M. & Newman, A. J. (2014). Electrophysiological markers of biological motion and human form recognition. NeuroImage, 84, 854-867.

Bodner, G., Taihk, A. & Fawcett, J. M. (2014). The costs and benefits of production in recognition. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21, 149-154.

Fawcett, J. M., Taylor, T. L., & Nadel, L. (2013). Event-method directed forgetting: Forgetting a video segment is more effortful than remembering it. Acta Psychologica, 144, 332-343.

Russell, E., Fawcett, J. M. & Mazmanian, D. (2013). Risk of obsessive-compulsive disorder in pregnant and post-partum women: A meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 74, 377-385.

Fawcett, J. M. (2013). The production effect benefits performance in between-subject designs: A meta-analysis. Acta Psychologica, 142, 1-5.

Lee, Y., Lee, H. & Fawcett, J. M. (2013). Intentional forgetting reduces colour-naming interference: Evidence from item-method directed forgetting. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 39, 220-236.

Fawcett, J. M., Russell, E. J., Christie, J. & Peace, K. (2013). Of guns and geese: A meta-analytic review of the ‘weapon focus’ literature. Psychology, Crime & Law, 19, 35-66.

Zaini, H., Fawcett, J. M., White, N. C., & Newman, A. J. (2012). Communicative and non-communicative point-light actions featuring high-resolution representation of the hands and fingers. Behavior Research Methods, 45, 319-328.

Taylor, T. L. & Fawcett, J. M. (2012). Does an instruction to forget enhance memory for other presented items? Consciousness & Cognition, 21, 1186-1197.

Graham, A., Fawcett, J. M. & Klein, R. (2012). Inhibition of return and schizophrenia: A meta-analysis. Schizophrenia Research, 135, 55-61.

Fawcett, J. M. & Taylor, T. L. (2012). The control of working memory resources in intentional forgetting: Evidence from incidental probe word recognition. Acta Psychologica, 139, 84-90.

Taylor, T. L. & Fawcett, J. M. (2011). Larger IOR effects following forget than following remember instructions depend on exogenous attentional withdrawal and target localization. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 73, 1790-1814

Fawcett, J. M. & Taylor, T. L. (2010). Directed forgetting shares mechanisms with attentional withdrawal but not with stop-signal inhibition. Memory & Cognition, 38, 797-808.

Quinlan, C. K., Taylor, T. L., & Fawcett, J. M. (2010). Directed forgetting: Comparing pictures and words. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64, 41-46.

Fawcett, J. M. & Taylor, T. L. (2008). Forgetting is effortful: Evidence from reaction time probes in an item-method directed forgetting task. Memory & Cognition, 36, 1168-1181.