UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

Dr Jo Taylor

Dr Jo Taylor

Lecturer in Language Cognitive Development

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 keen to supervise projects looking at language and literacy learning in both children and adults. 

I have experience teaching developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and in particular educational neuroscience. 


I gained my PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford in in 2009. 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 worked with Dr Matt Davis and learned how to conduct fMRI experiments. We conducted experiments to look at 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 to work with Kathy Rastle on an ESRC funded project 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.