UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

Dr Jo Taylor

Dr Jo Taylor

Associate Professor

Language & Cognition

Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Aug 2019

Research summary

I joined UCL Psychology and Language Sciences in August 2019 as a Lecturer in the Department of Language and Cognition. My research investigates the way we learn to read, in particular how we learn the relationship between a word’s spelling and its sound and meaning. I often use artificial language learning methods, in which participants learn to read made-up words, sometimes written in unfamiliar alphabets. This enables me to simulate what it's like for children learning read words for the first time or how adults learn a foreign language. 

I am interested in how different factors affect learning, for example, how difficult the spelling-to-sound relationships are, how meaningful the words are, or the method we use to teach people. I study how well people learn and I also use neuroimaging to look at how the brain represents newly learned words. 

Here you can read about some of my recent work:

Taylor, J. S. H., Rastle, K., & Davis, M.H. (2019). Mapping visual symbols onto spoken language along the ventral visual stream. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 116, 17723 – 17728. https://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1818575116


Taylor, J. S. H., Davis, M. H., & Rastle, K. (2017). Comparing and validating methods of reading instruction using behavioural and neural findings in an artificial orthography. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146, 826 - 858. 



Teaching summary

I am the director for the MSci Psychology and Language Sciences, and head of year 4 for this programme.

I supervise undergraduate and masters research projects on literacy and language learning.

My current PhD students include:

Yani Qiu (co-supervised by Professor Courtenay Norbury) who is investigating the role of inhibitory control in irregular word learning.

Cesar Gutierrez (first supervisor Professor Jenni Rodd) who is interested in improving processing of ambiguous words.

Alison Gwilliams (Aston University) who works on the neural mechanisms that differentiate word and pseudoword reading and listening. 


I gained my PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford in in 2009. My PhD was funded by an interdisciplinary studentship from the ESRC and MRC. My thesis was entitled “The influence of frequency, consistency, and semantics on reading aloud: An artificial orthography paradigm, and I was supervised by Professors Kate Nation and Kim Plunkett. 

I then moved to the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge where I held an ESRC/MRC interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowship as well as a Newnham College research fellowship. In collaboration with Dr Matt Davis and Professor Kathy Rastle, I conducted experiments to investigate the neural underpinnings of learning to read, as well as how brain activity during reading relates to cognitive theories. After four years in Cambridge I moved to Royal Holloway University of London as a postdoctoral fellow and co-investigator on an ESRC funded grant investigating how methods of reading instruction and the nature of the words we are learning influence their neural representations. 

Before joining UCL I was a lecturer at Aston University in Birmingham where I began several new projects, one examining word learning through reading stories and another looking at how best to teach adults who are struggling with reading.