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Professor Mark Johnson

BSc (Edin), PhD (Cantab)

- Professor of Psychology 
- MRC Director/Scientific Team Leader
- Director, Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development

Contact details

Office: Room 519, Department of Psychological Sciences
tel: +44 (0)20 7631 6226
fax: +44 (0)20 7631 6312

Publications listed on BIROn

Curriculum vitae

  • I chose to conduct my undergraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh, since I could combine courses from basic biology with those on psychology. During these studies I became particularly fascinated with developmental biology and developmental psychology. I was struck, however, with how separate these two disciplines were at that time. As a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Gabriel Horn and Pat Bateson, I found a natural home for my interest in relating brain development, and early experience, to behavioural development. I also learned about the necessity of using multiple converging methodologies from genetics, neuroscience and psychology, to address these issues. After completing my PhD I was fortunate to join the newly formed MRC Cognitive Development Unit in London, under the Directorship of John Morton. Here I developed my interest in studying human infants, and enjoyed the freedom of postdoctoral years to develop and expand theoretical ideas on the development of perception, especially face processing. A logical consequence of this work was to understand the mechanisms that underlie the looking-time based behavioural measures used to study human infants. This took me to spend an enjoyable year (spread over two) with Mike Posner and Mary Rothbart at the University of Oregon, Eugene. This productive time advanced my interest in the development of visual orienting and attention, and further reinforced to me the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to development.
  • In 1991 I joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) as Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, and was fortunate to recruit Leslie Tucker from Oregon as my lab manager. Over the ensuing years, Leslie’s role has expanded with the size of the research group to her present position at Birkbeck of Centre Co-ordinator. At CMU my growing interest in neural network and connectionist models was nourished, and I benefited from some outstanding colleagues and students. In 1994 I returned to London to re-join the MRC Cognitive Development Unit as a Senior Research Scientist. At this time we were keen to establish an infant ERP/EEG lab, and we were fortunate to recruit Gergely Csibra from Budapest to lead this. Gergo’s unique combination of technical and theoretical skills allowed us to become one of the first few labs in the world to undertake high-density ERP studies in young infants. In 1997 I took up the chair of Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London, and shortly after the lab moved to "our" building, 32 Torrington Square, to form the new "Centre for Brain & Cognitive Development" (CBCD) along with Denis Mareschal.
    Since 1997 the CBCD has expanded rapidly and includes many excellent new colleagues such as Michael Thomas, Fred Dick, Jennifer Aydelott, Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Natasha Kirkham and Angelica Ronald. In 2006 some members of the CBCD moved into a new purpose-built building (the Henry Wellcome Building), designed around our scientific needs. Also in 2006 we, along with Martin Eimer, were awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher Education. In 2008 I was awarded the British Psychological Society President's Award for distinguished contributions to psychological knowledge, and in 2009 the Experimental Psychology Society Mid-Career Award. More recently, in 2011, I was elected as Fellow of the British Academy (FBA) and in 2012 I was elected as Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society.
  • I am also on Neurotree.
  • Listen to a recent interview with Current Biology.