Prof Louise Connell


Education House


Professor Louise Connell is a Professorial Research Fellow in the Department of Psychology who specialises in interdisciplinary research in cognition and cognitive science. She has published widely on the nature of mental representations and concepts, and her current work investigates the role of sensorimotor experience and linguistic distributional knowledge in cognition, using a combination of methods from experimental psychology, corpus linguistics, data sciences, and computational modelling. She is also a strong proponent of open science practices.

She is currently Principal Investigator on a €2 million research grant from the European Research Council on the role of language in complex cognition. 

A graduate of Dublin City University (BSc), University of Edinburgh (MSc) and University College Dublin (PhD), she held faculty positions in the UK at Northumbria University, University of Manchester, and Lancaster University, before moving to Maynooth University in 2021.

Research Interests

My research is interdisciplinary cognitive science investigating topics of cognition, concepts, and language:
  • Mental representation: how semantic memory and conceptual thought emerges from the interplay of linguistic distributional knowledge and simulation of sensorimotor and affective experience.
  • Language and cognition: how language supports the complexity of human cognitive processing, and how this support varies by individual and age.
  • Computational cognition: how insights from psychology (cognitive, experimental, and neuro), linguistics (psycho-, corpus, and computational), and artificial intelligence (machine learning, data sciences, and computational modelling) can inform an interdisciplinary psychological science.

Research Projects

Title Role Description Start date End date Amount
LANGBOOT: Language bootstraps cognitive complexity PI Language and cognition have a close, but cryptic, relationship. Is language just another tool in humans' diverse cognitive toolkit; vital for communication, but not necessary for complex, high-level thought? Or is language what allows us to form and manipulate complex thoughts in the first place, by allowing words to act as placeholders in ideas that would otherwise be too unwieldy to handle? Distinguishing between these possibilities is vital to understanding our most fundamental cognitive faculties and the origin of modern human cognition itself. The current project will render this problem tractable with the groundbreaking proposal that language bootstraps the cognitive complexity of the human mind by enhancing its ability to form and manipulate more elaborate mental representations than would otherwise be possible without language. In an innovative programme of investigation that uses cutting-edge methods from experimental psychology, psycholinguistics, cognitive modelling, and corpus linguistics, we will examine how words interact with conceptual knowledge gleaned from perceptual and action experience in forming mental representations across a range of fundamental cognitive tasks, including categorisation, memory performance, and abstract thought. We will test whether and how language provides indispensable aid to cognitive processing that struggles to complete under time pressure or that strains working memory capacity, and how such aid could have influenced cognitive evolution. Findings of this project will answer whether language provides critical enhancement to the achievable complexity of cognition, and whether language use could have brought about the sudden flowering of art, fine tools and culture that are the hallmarks of complex cognition in modern humans. The result will be a comprehensive, multidisciplinary perspective on the role of language in cognition that has the potential to reshape how we regard the functioning of the human mind. 01/10/2021 30/11/2023 671522.16

Peer Reviewed Journal

Year Publication
2023 Dymarska A.; Connell L.; Banks B. (2023) 'Weaker than you might imagine: Determining imageability effects on word recognition'. Journal of Memory and Language, 129 . [Link] [DOI]
2023 Dymarska, A.; Connell, L.; Banks, B. (2023) 'More Is Not Necessarily Better: How Different Aspects of Sensorimotor Experience Affect Recognition Memory for Words'. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition, . [Link] [DOI]
2023 Lynott, D.; Corker, K.; Connell, L.; O'Brien, K. (2023) 'The effects of temperature on prosocial and antisocial behaviour: A review and meta-analysis'. British Journal of Social Psychology, . [Link] [DOI]
2023 van Hoef, R.; Connell, L.; Lynott, D. (2023) 'The effects of sensorimotor and linguistic information on the basic-level advantage'. Cognition, 241 . [Link] [DOI]
2022 Banks B; Connell L; (2022) 'Category production norms for 117 concrete and abstract categories'. Behavior Research Methods, . [Link] [DOI]
2022 Banks B.; Connell L. (2022) 'Multi-dimensional sensorimotor grounding of concrete and abstract categories'. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 378 (1870). [Link]
2022 Dymarska, A; Connell, L; Banks, B (2022) 'Linguistic Bootstrapping Allows More Real-world Object Concepts to Be Held in Mind'. Collabra: Psychology, 8 (1). [Link]
2022 Wingfield C.; Connell L. (2022) 'Understanding the role of linguistic distributional knowledge in cognition'. Language, Cognition And Neuroscience, . [Link] [DOI]
2022 Wingfield C.; Connell L. (2022) 'Sensorimotor distance: A grounded measure of semantic similarity for 800 million concept pairs'. Behavior Research Methods, . [Link] [DOI]
2021 Banks B.; Wingfield C.; Connell L. (2021) 'Linguistic Distributional Knowledge and Sensorimotor Grounding both Contribute to Semantic Category Production'. Cognitive Science, 45 (10). [Link] [DOI]
2020 Lynott D; Connell L; Brysbaert M; Brand J; Carney J; (2020) 'The Lancaster Sensorimotor Norms: multidimensional measures of perceptual and action strength for 40,000 English words'. Behavior Research Methods, 52 (3). [DOI] [Full-Text]
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