NCCG History

The North Carolina Cognition Group
Slater E. Newman
North Carolina State University

The idea for our group was, I believe, rooted in EVIL, that is, the Eastern Verbal Investigators League, which operated in the Northeast from the mid-50s to the early 70s. According to Al Goss, and most of what I tell you about EVIL comes from a couple of phone conversations I had with him, EVIL grew out of some hotel-room sessions at the Eastern Psychological Association (EPA) meetings arranged by Charlie Cofer and Weston Bousfield. They and a few others would meet annually at those EPA meetings and informally discuss their research. The sessions began in 1955 or 1956 and after 4 or 5 years a more formal arrangement was developed. Thus, for a number of years, there would be an annual meeting, usually during a Saturday in the spring, on one of the campuses in the Northeast. The format became one of several invited speakers each of whom was given an hour or so to talk about his/her research. According to Al, attendance at those meetings was around 25 though there were noticeably more at the 1970 session I attended at City College. Al believes that the last meeting of EVIL was held in 1972.

Our first meeting occurred, perhaps coincidentally, in 1972, on a Saturday in December of that year at North Carolina State University. Invitations went out to perhaps a dozen or so faculty on campuses around the state, mainly in the Piedmont. They were invited to come and talk informally about their research and so they did. It seems to me there were about 10 of us. Listed on the program as participants were Herb Crovitz and George Robinson of Duke, Craig Ramey and Don McKinney of UNC-CH, Charlie Richman and Frank Wood of Wake Forest and I of NC State. Herb Wells of UNC-Greensboro was another who, I believe, attended. The session went quite well, and we agreed that we would meet again in a few months to continue our informal discussions.

About four months later we did meet again, this time at Wake Forest. My recollection is that there were again about 10 of us, and several of us spoke at some length about the research in which we were engaged. We decided that getting together at least once a year on some North Carolina campus was a good idea, and that is pretty much what we have since done. During two of these years, 1977 and 1987, we met twice, and three times, 1974, 1986, and 1992, there was no meeting at all. All of our meetings have been held on a Saturday, and for at least two, as I’ll mention later, a speaker presented a colloquium the day before. Until 1992 the meetings were usually held in the fall, but from 1993 on almost all the meetings were held in winter.

Among the early names for our group were the North Carolina Verbal Learners and the North Carolina Society for the Study of Cognition. By 1977, however, we began to call ourselves the Cognition Group of North Carolina and by 1986 it had become what it is now, the North Carolina Cognition Group. Most of the meetings have been held on the campuses of Wake Forest, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, and NC State. There have also been two at UNC-Charlotte and one at Davidson.

The program format has changed some over the years. It was not long before presentations were shorter and more formal, so that more presenters could be accommodated. (There had been 5 in 1975 and at both meetings in 1977). By 1979 there were 11 papers on the program and in recent years it’s averaged about 10, each speaker being allotted 20 minutes which included time for questions. Posters were added in 1993 and recently there have been about 25 posters each year. Parallel sessions were held at one of the early meetings, and at the 1977 meeting in Greensboro, two “student sessions” were included, but neither of these innovations was continued. Finally, a Dutch-treat lunch separated the morning from the afternoon session, a brief business meeting was often on the agenda and a social hour was sometimes held at the conference’s end.

The complete list of invited speakers is presented in Table 1. It is not clear whether we had our first official invited speaker in 1978 or in 1979. In 1978 when the meeting was held in Greensboro, Gene Winograd spoke at a departmental colloquium the day before. Notice about this Friday colloquium was sent out by Mary Geis as part of the announcement for the annual meeting. The announcement said “Please join us on both days.” The next year, when the meeting was held at Duke, David Rubin’s announcement stated explicitly that the meeting would be on Friday and Saturday, and that the Friday talk by Tom Landauer would be the opening event for this meeting. That was the last of our two-day meetings. For the traditional 1-day Saturday meeting, the first invited speaker appears to have been Lynn Hasher in 1984, who also spoke in 1989 and again in 2005 and is the only one to have spoken more than once. Finally, you will note that there were two speakers in 2001. That happened, according to Reed Hunt, when, after Steven Sloman had already been scheduled, it was learned that Colin MacLeod was doing a sabbatical at Duke, and he was added to the program.

Over the years attendance has, of course, varied (e.g., during the past 20 years or so it has, I believe, ranged from about 50 to more than 100). Most have been faculty or graduate students, and most have come from North Carolina, although each year there have been some from outside the state. For example, of the 27 who presented papers at the 2007, 2008, and 2009 meetings, 7 (26%) were from out of state, as were 16 (21%) of the 75 who presented posters. And, except for Reed Hunt in 1993, and Lynn Hasher in 1989, all of our invited speakers have come from outside our state.

And so here we are 41 years later. Our modus operandi is quite simple. Each year the baton is passed – along with a list of email addresses. The host department assumes financial responsibility, and makes all of the arrangements, including the selection of the speaker and putting together the program. And at the end of the conference, the responsibility and mailing list are handed over to next year’s host department. A pattern of meeting sites appears to be emerging (i.e., Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Durham) Most of the time, the process has worked fairly smoothly, but the mailing list has been lost more than once and, as I noted before, there were three separate years during which no meeting was held at all. This may have been due in part to there not having been a standard order of succession, nor a standard mechanism for getting us back on track.

It is something of an accomplishment perhaps, for us to have reached the ripe young age of 40. What success we have enjoyed is mainly attributable to the departments (and their members) that have served as hosts over the years, to our invited speakers, to those who have presented papers and posters, and to those who have attended our meetings. And so to all of them we say “thank you very much.”

Speaker list:

The first North Carolina Cognition Conference was held in 1972 at North Carolina State University. Since then, it has occurred almost every year. Starting in the 1980s, the conference began to invite a keynote speaker on an irregular basis, and since 1993, there has been an invited speaker every year. The “official” NCCC invited speakers have been:


Year Speaker Affiliation Title of Talk
1978 Eugene Winograd Emory University Remembering faces
1979 Thomas Landauer Bell Laboratories Remembering names, faces, numbers and facts: We know how but not why
1984 Lynn Hasher Temple University Mood and memory: A cognitive psychologist’s wandering into clinical psychology
1988 Henry Roediger Rice University An incredible new memory model
1989 Lynn Hasher Duke University Do you have trouble remembering? Here’s why.
1990 Herbert Simon Carnegie-Mellon University Psychology of scientific discovery
1991 Michael Kubovy University of Virginia On friezes and floor tiles: The perception of symmetry in periodic patterns
1993 Reed Hunt University of North Carolina at Greensboro Good cues gone bad
1994 Thomas Carr Michigan State University Processing printed words: What can we learn from dual-task performance?
1995 Kenneth Paap New Mexico State University Images of the brain should not constrain cognitive modeling: Word recognition as a prototypical case
1996 Tom Nelson University of Maryland Consciousness, cognition, and metacognition
1997 Robyn Fivush Emory University Mother-child reminiscing, attachment, and coping
1998 Daniel Schacter Harvard University The cognitive neuroscience of false memories
1999 Marcia Johnson Princeton University Cognitive and brain mechanisms of true and false memories and beliefs
2000 Michael Posner Cornell University Educating the human brain
2001* Colin MacLeod University of Toronto at Scarborough Losing control of your attention: The diabolical Stroop effect
2001* Steven Sloman Brown University Coherent on the outside, casual on the inside
2002 Elliot Hirshman University of Colorado at Denver Pharmacology and the dynamics of recognition memory judgments: Theoretical and applied perspectives
2003 Lawrence Barsalou Emory University Situated simulation in human conceptual systems
2004 Harold Pashler University of California, San Diego Dual-task interference and cognitive architecture
2005 Lynn Hasher University of Toronto Circadian rhythms and cognition
2006 Michael Anderson University of Oregon Individual differences in the ability to suppress unwanted memories
2007 Neal Cohen University of Illinois Amnesia, hippocampus, and relational (declarative) memory
2008 Christopher Hertzog Georgia Tech Strategic encoding behavior in intentional memory tasks
2009 Jim Nairne Purdue University Adaptive memory: Remembering with a stone-age brain
2010 Art Kramer University of Illinois Effects of exercise and physical activity on brain and cognitive function
2011 Mark McDaniel Washington University in St. Louis Individual differences in concept learning: Tendencies to concentrate on exemplars versus abstraction
2012 Fernanda Ferreira University of South Carolina Shallow processing in the visual world
2013 Randy Engle Georgia Tech WMC is three things – not one
2014 Suparna Rajaram Stony Brook University Memory in a social context: How does collaboration shape memory?
2015 David Balota Washington University in St. Louis Attentional control and biomarkers in healthy aging and early stage Alzheimer’s Disease
2016 Gordon Logan Vanderbilt University The paradox of expert control and the resolution at your fingertips
2017 Akira Miyake CU Boulder Individual differences in executive functions: Cognitive and biological bases for common EF
2018 Ian Dobbins Washington University What have neurophysiological measures told us about human recognition memory?

*In 2001 there were two speakers. See text for explanation.

Newman, S. E. (1994, February). Some notes on the history of the North Carolina Cognition Group. Paper presented at the meeting of the North Carolina Cognition Group, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Newman, S.E. (2008, February). The North Carolina Cognition Group: December 1972 – February 2008. Paper presented at the meeting of the North Carolina Cognition Group, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.

Address correspondence to Slater E. Newman, 315 Shepherd St., Raleigh, NC 27607-4031. Email:


I thank the following for their help: Ruth Ault, Lynne Baker-Ward, Bruce Bachelder, Larry Barsalov, Bob Beck, Ludy Benjamin, Tom Carr, Gus Craik, Dale Dagenbach, Ruth Day, John Dunlosky, Randy Engle, Robyn Fivush, Doug Gillan, Paula Goolkasian, Al Goss, Anthony Hall, Lynn Hasher, Tom Hess, Reed Hunt, Susie Hunter, Candi Jacobs, Mike Kane, Kitty Klein, Todd Kosmerick, Art Kramer, Michael Kubovy, Mark McDaniel, David Martin, Chris Mayhorn, Don Mershon, Neil Mulligan, Jim Nairne, Shevaun Neupert, Veronica Norris, Peter Ornstein, Jim Pate, Mike Posner, Charlie Richman, Roddy Roediger, David Rubin, Tom Wallsten, Herb Wells, Ed Wisniewski, and the Archives staff at D.H. Hill Library, North Carolina State University. I am especially grateful to Anne McLaughlin for arranging to have this “history” become a part of this website.