Dr Ross MacDonald

School of Psychology

I attained a BSc in Psychology from the University of Dundee in 2010. I then stayed on as a postgraduate for an MSc in Eye Movements and Cognition followed by a PhD in Psychology. In 2014, I began my first postdoctoral research post at Saarland University (Germany). In 2016, I joined the ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development (LuCiD) at the University of Manchester, where I carried out several studies on children’s language development. After a brief, but very rewarding, stint as a lecturer at Staffordshire University, I joined Liverpool John Moores University in February 2020.

My Expertise is in quantitative research methods in the areas of Developmental, Cognitive and Social Psychology. I have particular research interests in the following:

- Language processing and development.
I have investigated the linguistic factors (e.g. syntax, animacy) and individual differences (e.g. working memory, cognitive inhibition) that affect children and adult’s comprehension of spoken complex sentences. Using eye-tracking methods, I have been able to tap-in to participants’ online processing as these sentences unfold to reveal the syntactic choices they make in real-time.

- Social attention and gaze.
I am interested in how the social world affects our attention and perception, how it influences the way in which we think and communicate and how this develops over the lifespan. I have primarily used eye movements and social gaze cues to investigate these issues. Throughout my research I have investigated the effect of social context and language on gaze cue utilisation in highly naturalistic environments and then used the findings to inform the design of more controlled, less natural paradigms.

- Applications of eye-tracking.
Much of my research has involved eye-tracking methodologies and I maintain an interest in the insights these methods can provide across several research areas, such as reading, sports, film, locomotion and art. For example, as part of a large interdisciplinary AHRC project, I have carried out eye-movement research on how people visually engage with historic objects. I plan on continuing to work with non-psychologists on applied eye-tracking projects.


2015, University of Dundee, United Kingdom, PhD Psychology
2011, University of Dundee, United Kingdom, MSc Eye Movements and Cognition (Distinction)
2010, University of Dundee, United Kingdom, BSc (First Class Honours) Psychology

Academic appointments

Lecturer in Psychology, School of Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, 2020 - present
Lecturer in Social Psychology and Individual Differences, School of Life Science and Education, Staffordshire University, 2019 - 2020
Research Associate, Division of Human Communication, Development and Hearing, University of Manchester, 2016 - 2019
Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Computational Linguistics and Phonetics, Saarland University, 2014 - 2016

Journal article

MacDonald R, Brandt S, Theakston A, Lieven E, Serratrice L. 2020. The role of animacy in children’s interpretation of relative clauses in English: Evidence from sentence-picture matching and eye movements Cognitive Science, 44 DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

MacDonald R, Tatler B. 2018. Gaze in a real-world social interaction: A dual eye-tracking study Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71 :2162-2173 DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Cameron-Faulkner T, MacDonald R, Serratrice L, Melville J, Gattis M. 2017. Plant yourself where language blooms: Direct experience of nature changes how parents and children talk about nature. Children, Youth and Environments, 27 :110-124 DOI Publisher Url Public Url

Tatler B, MacDonald R, Hamling T, Richardson C. 2016. Looking at Domestic Textiles: An Eye-Tracking Experiment Analysing Influences on Viewing Behaviour at Owlpen Manor. Textile History, DOI Publisher Url

MacDonald R, Tatler B. 2015. Referent expressions and gaze: Reference type influences real-world gaze cue utilization. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Tatler B, Kirtley C, MacDonald R, Mitchell K, Savage S. 2014. The active eye: Perspectives on eye movement research DOI Publisher Url

MacDonald R, Tatler B. 2013. Do as eye say: Gaze cueing and language in a real-world social interaction. Journal of Vision, DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Research Grants Awarded:

Faculty of Health PhD Scholarship, Communication and blended-learning: Language and social cues in different learning contexts across educational stages., Anne-Marie Adams, Fiona Simmons, Alexandra Seddon, Grant value (£): ~72,000, Duration of research project: 3 Years. 2023

Conference presentation:

Discourse effects on children and adult's online processing of relative clauses, European Conference on Eye Movements, Alicante, Spain, Oral presentation. 2019

Animacy and children's processing of subject and object relative clauses, The Child Language Symposium, Reading, UK, Poster presentation. 2018

The role of intention in gaze following, European Conference on Eye Movements (ECEM), Vienna, Austria, Poster presentation. 2017

Animacy and children's online processing of restrictive relative clauses, European Conference on Eye Movements (ECEM), Wuppertal, Germany, Oral presentation. 2017

Language, gaze and shared attention, The Attentive Listener in the Visual World Workshop (AttLis), Potsdam, Germany, Oral presentation. 2016

Language and gaze cues: findings from the real world and the lab, International Workshop on Vision and Eye Tracking in Natural Environments and Solutions and Algorithms for Gaze Analysis (SAGA), Bielefeld, Germany, Oral presentation. 2015

Eye can't ignore what you're saying: Varying language and gaze cue reliability, 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Quebec City, Canada, Oral presentation. 2014

The effects of featural and spatial language on gaze cue utilisation in the real world, European Conference on Eye Movements (ECEM), Lund, Sweden, Oral presentation. 2013

The effect of social roles on gaze utilisation in a real-world collaboration., 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Berlin, Germany, Oral presentation. 2013

Do as eye say: The interaction between gaze cues and language specificity in social interaction, Scandinavian Workshop on Applied Eye Tracking (SWAET), Stockholm, Sweden, Oral presentation. 2012

Public engagement:

Other: Please specify in text box below, Children and their caregivers, A drop in event with a number of demonstration stalls, Eye-tracking demonstrator, Manchester Central Library, Manchester, Little Chatterboxes - a public engagement even on children's language development. 2018

Other: Please specify in text box below, Adults and Children, Workshop, Demonstrator, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Meet the Scientists. 2018