Kathleen B. McDermott is Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. McDermott received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Notre Dame in 1990 and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Rice University in 1996. She then went to Washington University in St. Louis for a postdoctoral fellowship in cognitive neuroscience. She was appointed research assistant professor in 1998 before going on the tenure-track in 2001. She was promoted to associate professor in 2006 then full professor in 2011.
Dr. McDermott’s research focuses on human memory. Her lab uses the traditional behavioral techniques of psychology complemented by functional MRI in studying memory and its interactions with other cognitive processes (e.g., perception, imagery, language). Early work focused on implicit memory and how imagery could—much like perception—produce priming on implicit memory tests. She is co-creator of the false memory paradigm now known as the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm. McDermott has also explored how learning strategies (e.g., practicing retrieval) can influence long-term retention of newly-learned information, both in the laboratory and in middle- and high-school classrooms. In addition, she has demonstrated marked similarities and important differences in episodic future thinking and autobiographical memory. McDermott has also demonstrated how traditional list-learning paradigms used to study episodic memory draw upon different brain networks than does autobiographical memory, challenging long-held assumptions about the relevance of list-learning to the understanding of autobiographical memory. Recent work on individual differences has shown that people differ widely in the speed and durability of their learning and that these measures are stable over time. All this work has been collaborative in nature, and McDermott’s career has benefitted greatly from a vibrant set of mentors, colleagues, and talented graduate student collaborators.
Work in the McDermott lab has been funded by the James S. McDonnell Foundation, Dart Neuroscience LLC, the Institute of Education Sciences, and the National Science Foundation. McDermott has been elected to the Society of Experimental Psychologists and the Memory Disorders Research Society, and she is a Fellow of the Psychonomic Society and the Association for Psychological Science. Her work was recognized by the Frank S. McGuigan Young Investigator Award from the American Psychological Foundation and the Shahin Hashtroudi Memorial Award from the Association for Psychological Science. McDermott has served as Associate Editor for Psychological Science, Memory & Cognition and Memory.
McDermott enjoys mentoring graduate students and assisting with career development. She won the Outstanding Mentor Award from Washington University in St Louis in recognition for graduate student mentoring. She regularly teaches the popular undergraduate Human Learning and Memory course at Washington University.