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David Washburn


Ph.D., Georgia State University, 1991


Comparative cognition, attention and executive function, individual differences in training and decision making


My research emphasizes two parallel lines of inquiry, one from the perspective of comparative psychology (cognition as it is manifest across species) and the other from the perspective of human factors (individual differences in cognition and performance). These two perspectives complement one another in analysis of the psychological processes that I currently study: attention/executive function, and learning/training. Thus, recent experiments include studies of individual and group differences in attention profiles, comparative and psychometric studies of uncertainty monitoring, procedures that improve the effectiveness of computer-based instruction, the effects of spaceflight on behavior and performance, psychophysiological and cognitive predictors of vigilance, the cognitive profiles of individuals who excel in detecting threat items in X-ray images of airport baggage, the effects of prayer on attention and other aspects of cognition, and the competition for the control of attention and behavior.

This broad program of research stems from support provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the McDonnell-Pew Foundation, the Department of Defense (ARI, ARO, AFOSR, ONR, and USAMRMC), and Georgia State University and enjoys the collaboration of outstanding behavioral scientists from GSU and around the world. With laboratory resources including eye-trackers and transcranial Doppler sonography in the Individual Differences in Executive Attention (IDEA) laboratory, to the unique monkeys and apes available for study at the Sonny Carter Life Sciences Laboratory and the Language Research Center, there are many opportunities for collaboration and participation by other scientists and graduate or undergraduate students.

These research opportunities are well illustrated by the program-project grant from NICHD, “Biobehavioral Foundations & the Development of Cognitive Competence” (HD060563). This multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary research project (as well as P01-HD38051, funded by NICHD from 2003-2011) is designed and funded to examine the emergence across species and developmental periods of executive attention, relational learning, numeric and symbolic processing, spatial problem-solving, and metacognition. Additionally, we are using brain-imaging technology including fMRI, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and transcranial doppler sonography to identify the brain mechanisms that correspond to each of these cognitive processes.


Rumbaugh, D. M., & Washburn, D. A. (2003). The Intelligence of Apes and Other Rational Beings. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Washburn, D. A. (Ed., 2006). Primate Perspectives on Behavior and Cognition. APA Press.

Washburn, D. A., & Taglialatela, L. A. (2012). The competition for attention in humans and other animals. In T. R. Zentall & E. Wasserman (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Comparative Cognition, (pp. 100-116). New York: Oxford University Press.

Washburn, D. A., Schultz, N. B., & Phillips, H. A. (2012). Transcranial Doppler sonography as a tool for cognitive neuroscience. In K. Thoirs (Ed.), Sonography. (pp. 227-248). Rejeka, Croatia: InTech Publications.

Washburn, D. A., Beran, M. J., Evans, T. A., Hoffman, M. L., & Flemming, T. M. (2012). Technological innovations in comparative psychology: From the Problem Box to the ‘Rumbaughx’. In L. Labate (Ed). Handbook of Technology in Psychology and Psychiatry.

Flemming, T. F., Thompson, R. K. R., Beran, M. J., & Washburn, D. A. (2011). Analogical reasoning and the differential outcome effect: Transitory bridging of the conceptual gap for rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 37, 353-360. doi: 10.1037/a0022142.

Harris, E. H, Gulledge, J. P., Beran, M. J., & Washburn, D. A. (2010). What do Arabic numerals mean to macaques? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 36, 66-76.

Parron, C. & Washburn, D. A. (2010). Contrasting the edge- and the surface-based theories of object recognition: Behavioral evidence from macaques. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 36, 148-157.

Matthews, G., Warm, J., Reinerman-Jones, L., Langheim, L., Washburn, D., & Tripp, L. (2010). Task engagement, cerebral blood flow velocity, and diagnostic monitoring for sustained attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 16, 187-203.

Smith, J. D., Redford, J. S., Beran, M. J., & Washburn, D. A. (2010). Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) adaptively monitor uncertainty while multi-tasking. Animal Cognition, 13, 93-101.

Washburn, D. A., (2010). The Animal Mind at 100. The Psychological Record, 60, 369-376.

Washburn, D. A., Gulledge, J. G., Beran, M. J., & Smith, J. D. (2010). With his memory magnetically erased, a monkey knows he is uncertain. Biology Letters, 6, 160-162. (First published online 28oct2009); doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0737.

Schultz, N. B., Matthews, G., Warm, J. S., & Washburn, D. A. (2009). A transcranial Doppler sonography study of shoot/don’t-shoot responding. Behavior Research Methods, 41, 593-597.

Hoffman, M. L., Beran, M. J., & Washburn, D. A. (2009). Memory for “what,” “where,” and “when” information in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 35, 143-152.

Flemming, T. M., Beran, M. J., Thompson, R. K. R., Kleider, H. M., & Washburn. (2008). What meaning means for same and different: Analogical reasoning in humans (Homo sapiens), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 122, 176-185.

Beran, M. J., Harris, E. H., Evans, T. A., Klein, E., D., Chan, B., Flemming, T. M. & Washburn, D. A. (2008). Ordinal judgments of symbolic stimuli by capuchin monkeys (Cebus paella) and rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta): The effects of differential and nondifferential reward. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 122, 52-61