My research crosses multiple levels of investigation from high-level studies of complex human performance to lower-level investigations of working memory processes.
Skill acquisition and expertise: Skill acquisition/expertise is often studied from one of two perspectives: 1) focusing on experiential (e.g., practice) and other environmental factors as predictors of performance, or 2) focusing on the roles of domain-general abilities as predictors of performance. I not only investigate the contribution of both types of predictors on performance variance, but also investigate how and when the relative contribution of each predictor varies. Of particular interest is the interplay between performance predictors and task demands such as the complexity, constraints, information updating requirements, and the predictability of the task environment.
Communication: In order to communicate information to another, we often need to engage perspective-taking mechanisms that rely on cognitive control. This can be more or less difficult depending on a variety of contextual factors. I am interested in which contextual factors heighten or mitigate cognitive load while communicating and the effects of cognitive load on perspective-taking during communication.
Bilingualism: The bilingual advantage–enhanced cognitive control among bilinguals relative to monolinguals–has generated years of interesting research. However, both the source of the advantage, and the reason for inconsistent results remains unclear. I am interested in the role of a) bilingual management demands such as amount of language conflict and the degree to which the environment cues both languages and b) experience managing those demands, in influencing the magnitude and type of cognitive control mechanisms that become enhanced. I am also interested in predictors of skill acquisition and expertise in complex bilingual processing tasks such as simultaneous interpreting.
Working memory: Working memory is thought of in multiple ways, such as one’s ability to maintain information in the face of interference, or one’s ability to concurrently maintain and transform information. My research investigates the mechanisms of working memory (e.g., attentional control and retrieval processes) and the extent to which these mechanisms are recruited depending on the demands of the task. Working memory and other cognitive constructs underlie numerous higher-level processes, including those engaged in communication, bilingual management, and many aspects of skill acquisition.
I am currently investigating the role of “deliberate practice” on performance, mechanisms of cognitive control, and effects of thinking in a foreign language.
Macnamara, B.N., Hambrick, D.Z., & Oswald, F.L. (2014). Deliberate practice and performance in music, games, sports, professions, and education: A meta-analysis. Psychological Science. Published online ahead of print.
Hambrick, D.Z. & Macnamara, B.N. (2014). Expertise. In D. K. Simonton (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Adulthood and Aging. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Macnamara, B.N. & Conway, A.R.A. (2014). Novel evidence in support of the bilingual advantage: Influence of task demands and experience on cognitive control and working memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21(2), 520-525.
Conway, A.R.A., Macnamara, B.N., & Engel de Abreu, P.M.J. (2013). Working memory and intelligence: An overview, in T. Alloway (Ed.) Working memory: The new intelligence. London: Psychology Press.
Macnamara, B.N., Moore, A.B., & Conway, A.R.A. (2011). Phonological similarity effects in simple and complex span tasks. Memory & Cognition, 39(7), 1174-1186.
Conway, A.R.A., Getz, S.J, Macnamara, B.N., & Engel de Abreu, P.M.J. (2011). Working memory and intelligence. In R.J. Sternberg & S.B. Kaufman (Eds.),The Cambridge handbook of intelligence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Macnamara, B.N., Moore, A.B., Kegl, J.A., & Conway, A.R.A. (2011). Domain-general cognitive abilities and simultaneous interpreting skill. Interpreting, 13(1), 121-142.
Macnamara, B.N. (2009). Interpreter cognitive aptitudes. Journal of Interpretation, 2008-2009, 9-32.