Morton, John


Start date:


Morton's work is characterised by a strong commitment to bridging the gap between theory and application in cognitive psychology. He is perhaps best known for a model of memory known as the 'logogen model'. This was one of the first attempts to develop a sophisticated information-processing model and it attracted much interest as a way of testing predictions about phenomena of memory, attention and speech perception, and also influenced ideas about how familiar faces were processed. Key ideas from this model, such as that of lexical units for words, which 'fire' when a certain threshold is exceeded, are clearly discernible in contemporary approaches such as connectionist models. Its influence also stretched to the clinical domain – Morton worked closely with speech therapists, using the model as a framework for designing new therapeutic procedures.
It may have been this work which triggered Morton's interest in developmental psychology. In 1982, he became director of the Medical Research Council Cognitive Development Unit, and headed it until it closed in the 1990s. This unit became one of the leading centres for research into developmental disorders such as dyslexia and autism, and many leading figures, including Uta Frith, trained or worked here. Morton developed a particularly fruitful collaboration with Frith, leading to work on a theoretical framework for explaining developmental disorders. Morton's interest in cognitive neuropsychology also took on a new dimension at this time, with his interest in neuropsychological aspects of developmental disorders. Morton's interest in memory also lead him to develop a new model-headed records – to account for phenomena of everyday memory and memory failure. This in turn took him into the controversial field of 'false memory syndrome' where his views have received wide publicity. Morton has been an active and influential member of the British Psychological Society.