Dr John Towse

Senior Lecturer

Research Interests

My work spans a number of research topics. Here is an overview of some of projects I have been involved with

Working memory

Working memory refers to the active maintenance of transient information. We know that working memory is very important, for children's development and for adult cognitive skills. Tasks that measure working memory are often very good at predicting mathematics, reading, comprhension processes and so on. My research has attempted to document the relations between working memory and cognition, as well as develop more complete theoretical accounts of how working memory processes unfold.

Executive functions

Executive functions relate the the effective regulation of behaviours towards goals, targets, cognitions and responses. Executive functions form a complex interrelated set of behaviours. So it is important to understand how regulation takes place, the limits and the opportunities that they provide.

Mathematical cognition

Several research projects attempt to understand how children's understanding of mathematics concepts and mathematics processes unfold. We explore how education and cognitive development impact on the important domain of mathematics.


Online environments are increasingly ubiquitous; we communicate through email, we browse websites, we live our lives through social media, etc. This presents cognitive systems with great challenges. We interact with complex systems involving many -sometimes unknown - permuations and consequences, and we are required to trust individuals and systems despite sometimes scanty evidence to justify this. We seek to understand how cognitive decisions interact with computer systems, devices and expectations.

Human Dimensions of Cyber Security

I am a member of the EPSRC project team examining why security isn't a stronger feature of software development.


Links to graphs describing citation networks of who I work with and who cites my work

Examinations of email fraud susceptibility: Perspectives from academic research and industry practice
Jones, H., Towse, J.N. 27/02/2018 In: Psychological and Behavioral Examinations in Cyber Security. Hershey, PA : IGI Global p. 80-97. 18 p. ISBN: 9781522540533. Electronic ISBN: 9781522540540.

Foreword: Mathematical Cognition, Language, and Culture: Understanding the Links
Towse, J.N. 9/01/2018

Joint cognition and the role of human agency in random number choices
Maehara, Y., Saito, S., Towse, J.N. 6/11/2017 In: Psychological Research.
Journal article

Numerical Cognition Speaks Up: Reflections and Acknowledgements on the Journal of Numerical Cognition
Towse, J.N. 10/02/2017 In: Journal of Numerical Cognition. 2, 3, 4 p.

Joint cognition: thought contagion and the consequences of cooperation when sharing the task of random sequence generation
Towse, J.N., Towse, A.S., Saito, S., Maehara, Y., Miyake, A. 15/03/2016 In: PLoS ONE. 11, 3, 22 p.
Journal article

Finding a voice for numerical cognition
Towse, J. 29/10/2015 In: Journal of Numerical Cognition. 1, 1, 6 p.

The developmental influence of primary memory capacity on working memory and academic achievement
Hall, D., Jarrold, C., Towse, J., Zarandi, A.L. 08/2015 In: Developmental Psychology. 51, 8, p. 1131-1147. 17 p.
Journal article

A working memory test battery: Java-based collection of seven working memory tasks
Stone, J.M., Towse, J. 5/06/2015 In: Journal of Open Research Software. 3, 9 p.
Journal article

Susceptibility to email fraud: a review of psychological perspectives, data-collection methods, and ethical considerations
Jones, H., Towse, J., Race, N. 5/06/2015 In: International Journal of Cyber Behavior, Psychology and Learning. 5, 3, p. 13-29. 17 p.
Journal article

What can we learn about immediate memory from the development of children's free recall?
Jarrold, C., Hall, D., Harvey, C.E., Tam, H., Towse, J.N., Zarandi, A.L. 16/02/2015 In: The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology . 68, 9, p. 1871-1894. 24 p.
Journal article

How do selective attentional processes contribute to maintenance and recall in children’s working memory capacity?
Roome, H.E., Towse, J., Jarrold, C. 16/12/2014 In: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 8
Journal article

Figuring out children’s number representations: lessons from cross-cultural work
Towse, J., Muldoon, K., Simms, V. 03/2014 In: Oxford handbook of numerical cognition. Oxford : Oxford University Press

Not all numbers are equal: preferences and biases among children and adults when generating random sequences
Towse, J., Loetscher, T., Brugger, P. 23/01/2014 In: Frontiers in Psychology. 5, 7 p.
Journal article

Plane thinking: mental representations in number line estimation as a function of orientation, scale, and counting proficiency
Simms, V., Muldoon, K., Towse, J. 07/2013 In: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 115, 3, p. 468-480. 13 p.
Journal article

A longitudinal analysis of estimation accuracy, counting skills and mathematical ability across the first school year
Muldoon, K., Towse, J., Simms, V., Perra, O., Menzies, V. 02/2013 In: Developmental Psychology. 49, 2, p. 250-257. 8 p.
Journal article

Cross-cultural comparisons of 5-year-olds’ estimating and mathematical ability
Muldoon, K., Simms, V., Towse, J., Menzies, V., Yue, G. 05/2011 In: Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 42, 4, p. 669-681. 13 p.
Journal article

Synergies between processing and memory in children's reading span.
Towse, J.N., Hitch, G.J., Horton, N., Harvey, K. 09/2010 In: Developmental Science. 13, 5, p. 779-789. 11 p.
Journal article

With development, list recall includes more chunks, not just larger ones.
Cowan, N., Hismjatullina, A., AuBuchon, A.M., Saults, J.S., Horton, N., Leadbitter, K., Towse, J.N. 09/2010 In: Developmental Psychology. 46, 5, p. 1119-1131. 13 p.
Journal article

Lucky numbers : spatial neglect affects physical, but not representational, choices in a Lotto task.
Loetscher, T., Nicholls, M.E.R., Towse, J.N., Bradshaw, J.L., Brugger, P. 05/2010 In: Cortex. 46, 5, p. 685-690. 6 p.
Journal article

Epistemic flow and the social making of minds.
Lewis, C., Carpendale, J., Towse, J., Maridaki-Kassotaki, K. 2010 In: Self- and Social-Regulation: Exploring the Relations between Social Interaction, Social Cognition, and the Development of Executive Functions.. Oxford : Oxford University Press p. 80-110. 31 p. ISBN: 978-0195327694.

The endurance of children's working memory : a recall time analysis.
Towse, J.N., Hitch, G.J., Hamilton, Z., Pirrie, S. 10/2008 In: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 101, 2, p. 156-163. 8 p.
Journal article

Task experience and children’s working memory performance : a perspective from recall timing.
Towse, J.N., Cowan, N., Horton, N., Whytock, S. 2008 In: Developmental Psychology. 44, 3, p. 695-706. 12 p.
Journal article

The recall of information from working memory : insights from behavioural and chronometric perspectives.
Towse, J.N., Cowan, N., Hitch, G.J., Horton, N. 2008 In: Experimental Psychology. 55, 6, p. 371-383. 13 p.
Journal article

Working memory as the interface between processing and retention : a developmental perspective
Towse, J., Hitch, J.G., Horton, N. 07/2007 In: Advances in child development and behavior. Amsterdam : Elsevier Academic Press p. 215-251. 37 p. ISBN: 978-0-12-009735-7.

Random number generation and working memory.
Towse, J.N., Cheshire, A. 05/2007 In: European Journal of Cognitive Psychology. 19, 3, p. 374-394. 21 p.
Journal article

When knowledge is not enough: the phenomenon of goal neglect in preschool children.
Towse, J.N., Lewis, C., Knowles, M. 04/2007 In: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 96, 4, p. 320-332. 13 p.
Journal article

Variation in working memory due to normal development
Towse, J.N., Hitch, J.G. 2007 In: Variation in working memory. New York : Oxford University Press p. 109-133. 25 p. ISBN: 9780195168648.

Variation in working memory.
Conway, A.R.A., Jarrold, C., Kane, M.J., Myake, A., Towse, J.N. 2007 New York : Oxford University Press. 321 p. ISBN: 9780195168631.

Working memory as a construct in cognitive science: An illustrious past and a highly promising future
Saito, S., Towse, J. 2007 In: Psychologia. 50, p. 69-75. 7 p.
Journal article

Individual differences in working memory.
Jarrold, C., Towse, J.N. 28/04/2006 In: Neuroscience. 139, 1, p. 39-50. 12 p.
Journal article

Because it's there! Why some children count, rather than infer numerical relationships.
Muldoon, K.P., Lewis, C., Towse, J.N. 07/2005 In: Cognitive Development. 20, 3, p. 472-491. 20 p.
Journal article

Working memory period: the endurance of mental representations.
Towse, J.N., Hamilton, Z., Hitch, G.J., Peacock, K. 1/01/2005 In: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Series a Human Experimental Psychology. 58, 3, p. 547-571. 25 p.
Journal article

Working memory and its relevance for cognitive development.
Towse, J.N., Cowan, N. 11/2004 In: Young children's cognitive development : interrelationships among executive functioning, working memory, verbal ability and theory of mind. Mahwah, New Jersey : Lawrence Erlbaum Associates p. 9-37. 29 p. ISBN: 978-0805849066.

Review of ‘Lifespan development of human memory’.
Towse, J.N. 10/2003 In: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Series a Human Experimental Psychology. 56, 7, p. 1244-1246. 3 p.
Journal article

Children's Working-Memory Processes: A Response-Timing Analysis.
Towse, J.N., Cowan, N., Hamilton, Z., Saults, J.S. 1/01/2003 In: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 132(1), p. 113-132. 20 p.
Journal article

On the nature of the relationship between processing activity and item retention in children.
Towse, J.N., Hitch, G.J., Hutton, U.M.Z. 06/2002 In: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 82, 2, p. 156-184. 29 p.
Journal article

Short-term memory and working memory as indices of children’s cognitive skills.
Hutton, U.M.Z., Towse, J.N. 07/2001 In: Memory. 9, 4-6, p. 383-394. 12 p.
Journal article

What limits children's working memory span? Theoretical accounts and applications for scholastic development.
Towse, J.N., Hitch, G.J., Hutton, F. 1/01/2001 In: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 130, 2, p. 184-198. 15 p.
Journal article

Combining representations in working memory: A brief report.
Towse, J.N., Houston-Price, C.M.T. 2001 In: British Journal of Developmental Psychology. 19, 3, p. 319-324. 6 p.
Journal article

Reflections on the concept of the central executive
Towse, J.N., Houston-Price, C.M.T. 2001 In: Working memory in perspective. Hove, England : Psychology Press p. 240-260. 21 p. ISBN: 0415211980.

Memory limits : give us an answer!
Towse, J.N. 02/2000 In: Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 24, 1, p. 150-151. 2 p.
Journal article

On the interpretation of working memory span in adults.
Towse, J.N., Hitch, G.J., Hutton, U. 2000 In: Memory and Cognition. 28, 3, p. 341-348. 8 p.
Journal article

An exploration of random generation among children
Towse, J.N., McLachlan, A. 09/1999 In: British Journal of Developmental Psychology. 17, 3, p. 363-380. 18 p.
Journal article

Developmental sensitivity to temporal grouping effects in short-term memory.
Towse, J.N., Hitch, G.J., Skeates, S. 06/1999 In: International Journal of Behavioral Development. 23, 2, p. 391-411. 21 p.
Journal article

The resource king is dead! Long live the resource king!
Towse, J.N., Hitch, G.J., Hutton, U. 02/1999 In: Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 22, 1, p. 111-111. 1 p.
Journal article

Analyzing human random generation behavior: a review of methods used and a computer program for describing performance
Towse, J.N., Neil, D. 12/1998 In: Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers. 30, 4, p. 583-591. 9 p.
Journal article

Linguistic relativity: The case of place value in multi-digit numbers
Saxton, M., Towse, J.N. 04/1998 In: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 69, 1, p. 66-79. 14 p.
Journal article

On random generation and the central executive of working memory
Towse, J.N. 02/1998 In: British Journal of Psychology. 89, 1, p. 77-101. 25 p.
Journal article

A re-evaluation of working memory capacity in children.
Towse, J.N., Hitch, G.J., Hutton, U. 1998 In: Journal of Memory and Language. 39, 2, p. 195-217. 23 p.
Journal article

Linguistic Influences on Children's Number Concepts: Methodological and Theoretical Considerations
Towse, J.N., Saxton, M. 09/1997 In: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 66, 3, p. 362-375. 14 p.
Journal article

Integrating information in object counting: a role for a central coordinating process?
Towse, J.N., Hitch, G.J. 1997 In: Cognitive Development. 12, 3, p. 393-422. 30 p.
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Random generation of numbers: a search for underlying processes
Towse, J.N., Valentine, J.D. 1997 In: European Journal of Cognitive Psychology. 9, 4, p. 381-400. 20 p.
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Performance demands in the selection of objects for counting.
Towse, J.N., Hitch, G.J. 1996 In: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 61, 1, p. 67-79. 13 p.
Journal article

Is there a relationship between task demand and storage space in tests of working memory capacity?
Towse, J.N., Hitch, G.J. 1995 In: The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology . 48, 1, p. 108-124. 17 p.
Journal article

Temporal effects in immediate verbal memory: a combined experimental/modelling approach.
Malloch, M., Shapiro, J., Hitch, G.J., Culpin, V., Towse, J.N. 1995 In: Language and Cognitive Processes. 10, 3&4, p. 401-405. 5 p.
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Temporal generalization among humans: three further studies
Wearden, J., Towse, J.N. 11/1994 In: Behavioural Processes. 32, 3, p. 247-264. 18 p.
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