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Timothy P. McNamara

Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in the Social and Natural Sciences
Professor & Chair, Department of Psychology

My research investigates human memory, cognition, and decision making, with a particular focus on spatial processing.  My research has investigated the metric structure of spatial memory, the spatial reference systems used in memory to represent the locations of objects in the environment, and how people update representations of their own location and orientation during locomotion.  Current experiments are examining how people use spatial cues to location and orientation (e.g., landmarks in the environment and body-based cues, such as vestibular, proprioceptive, and efference-copy information) during navigation to estimate their position and the locations of goals.  These studies use Bayesian decision theory as a theoretical framework for examining the complex sensory-perceptual and decision processes involved in navigation. 

Lab Website

Representative Publications

  • Chen, X., He, Q., Kelly, J. W., Fiete, I. R., & McNamara, T. P. (2015). Bias in human path integration is predicted by properties of grid cells. Current Biology, 25 (13), 1771-6.
  • Chen, X., McNamara, T. P., Kelly, J. W., & Wolbers, T. (2017). Cue combination in human spatial navigation. Cognitive Psychology, 95, 105-144.
  • Riecke, B. E., & McNamara, T. P. (2017). Where you are affects what you can easily imagine: Environmental geometry elicits sensorimotor interference in remote perspective taking. Cognition, 169, 1-14.
  • He, Q., McNamara, T. P., & Kelly, J. W. (2018). Reference frames in spatial updating when body-based cues are absent. Memory & Cognition, 46, 32-42.
  • Sjolund, L. A., Kelly, J. W., & McNamara, T. P. (2018). Optimal combination of environmental cues and path integration during navigation. Memory & Cognition, 46, 89-99.
  • He, Q., & McNamara, T. P. (2018). Spatial updating strategy affects the reference frame in path integration. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 25, 1073-1079.
  • He, Q., & McNamara, T. P. (2018). Virtual orientation overrides physical orientation to define a reference frame in spatial updating. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12:269.
  • He, Q., McNamara, T. P., Brown, T. I. (2019). Manipulating the visibility of barriers to improve spatial navigation efficiency and cognitive mapping. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 1–12.
  • He, Q., McNamara, T. P., Bodenheimer, B., & Klippel, A. (2019). Acquisition and transfer of spatial knowledge during wayfinding. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45(8), 1364-1386.
  • Newman, P. M., & McNamara, T. P. (2021). A computational cognitive model of judgments of relative direction. Cognition, 209, 104559.
  • Newman, P. M., & McNamara, T. P. (2021). A comparison of methods of assessing cue combination during navigation. Behavior Research Methods, 53, 390-398.
  • McNamara, T. P., & Chen, X. (2021). Bayesian decision theory and navigation. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

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