Nora Newcombe

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Nora S. Newcombe
Nora Newcombe sitting at her desk, hands folded, at Temple University
Nora S. Newcombe, 2008, Department of Psychology, Temple University
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Alma materHarvard University, Antioch College
Known forSpatial development, Spatial cognition, Episodic memory
Awards2014 APS William James Fellow Award, G. Stanley Hall Award, George A. Miller Award, James McKeen Cattell Fellow, Distinguished Service to Psychological Science Award, Women in Cognitive Science Mentorship Award
Scientific career
FieldsCognitive development, Cognitive psychology
InstitutionsTemple University
Doctoral advisorJerome Kagan

Nora S. Newcombe is the Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology and the James H. Glackin Distinguished Faculty Fellow at Temple University. She is a Canadian-American researcher in cognitive development, cognitive psychology and cognitive science, working on the development of spatial thinking[1][2] and reasoning and on the development of episodic memory. She was the principal investigator of the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center, one of six NSF-funded Science of Learning Centers.


Newcombe received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1976. She has served as the Chair of the Cognitive Science Society Board, President of the Cognitive Development Society, Division 7 (Developmental) of the American Psychological Association, the Eastern Psychological Association[3] and as Chair of the Board of Scientific Affairs of the American Psychological Association. She has been elected as a Fellow in various societies including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Society of Experimental Psychologists, the Association for Psychological Science, four divisions of the American Psychological Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Newcombe's contributions to spatial cognition and its development are extensive. Her book with Janellen Huttenlocher in 2003, Making Space,[4] synthesized decades of research and provided a new direction for the field, and provides a new conceptualization of cognitive development different from either traditional nativist or from traditional empiricist approaches.[5] In addition, she has worked on sex differences in cognition,[6] beginning in the late 1970s with a critical look at a then-popular explanation of sex differences in spatial functioning in terms the onset of puberty. Since then, she has recognized the evolutionary and neural factors involved in sex differences while also emphasizing the malleability of cognitive ability as noted in the literature.[7] (recently reprinted in a special issue celebrating 25 years of Applied Cognitive Psychology[8]).

Newcombe has been the keynote speaker discussing relevant developments in spatial cognition at several meetings such as the Psychonomic Society,[9][10] the American Psychological Society, the International Mind Brain Education Society[11] and the German Psychological Society.

Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center[edit]

Newcombe led the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC), one of 6 NSF-funded Science of Learning Centers that explore learning in an interdisciplinary framework, during its grant period from 2006-2018. She has thus brought spatial cognition to the forefront of our conceptualization of the human intellect and its potential for learning.[12][13][14]

In her work on memory and memory development,[15] Newcombe has integrated research from adult cognitive psychology and neuroscience to the study of development, both in terms of distinctions between implicit and explicit memory[16] and distinctions between semantic and episodic memory.[17]

Awards and fellowships[edit]

Newcombe has received the 2014 APA William James Fellow Award[18] recognizing her achievement in advancing the field of cognitive science, G. Stanley Hall Award, the George A. Miller Award,[19][20] an Award for Distinguished Service to Psychological Science,[21] and the Women in Cognitive Science Mentorship Award.[22] She was a James McKeen Cattell Fellow for a sabbatical year at Princeton in 1999-2000. She is a Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society.[23]

Selected works[edit]

Newcombe, N. S. (2011). What is neoconstructivism? Child Development Perspectives, 5, 157-160. DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00180.x
Newcombe, N. S. (2002). The nativist-empiricist controversy in the context of recent research on spatial and quantitative development. Psychological Science, 13, 395-401. DOI:10.1111/1467-9280.00471
Spatial Development
Newcombe, N. S., Ratliff, K. R., Shallcross, W. L. & Twyman, A. D. (2010). Young children's use of features to reorient is more than just associative: Further evidence against a modular view of spatial processing. Developmental Science, 13, 213-220.DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00877.x
Twyman, A. D. & Newcombe, N. S. (2010). Five reasons to doubt the existence of a geometric module. Cognitive Science, 34, 1315-1356.DOI: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2009.01081.x
Learmonth, A. E., Nadel, L. & Newcombe, N. S. (2002). Children's use of landmarks: Implications for modularity theory. Psychological Science, 13, 337-341. PMID URL
Newcombe, N. S. & Huttenlocher, J. (2000). Making space: The development of spatial representation and reasoning. MIT Press.
Sex Differences
Terlecki, M. S., Newcombe, N. S. & Little, M. (2008). Durable and generalized effects of spatial experience on mental rotation: Gender differences in growth patterns. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22, 996-1013.DOI: 10.1002/acp.1420
Newcombe, N. S. & Bandura, M. M. (1983). Effects of age at puberty on spatial ability in girls: A question of mechanism. Developmental Psychology, 19, 215-224. DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.19.2.215
Newcombe, N. S., Lloyd, M. E. & Ratliff, K. R. (2007). Development of episodic and autobiographical memory: A cognitive neuroscience perspective. In R. V. Kail (Ed.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 35, (pp. 37–85). San Diego, CA: Elsevier. PMID URL
Newcombe, N. S. & Fox, N. (1994). Infantile amnesia: Through a glass darkly. Child Development, 65, 31-40. jstor Stable URL


  1. ^ Tricoles, Robin. "The Benefits of Spatial Thinking". Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS). Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  2. ^ Newcombe, Nora S. (2010). "Picture This: Increasing Math and Science Learning by Improving Spatial Thinking" (PDF). American Educator. 34 (2): 29–35. ISSN 0148-432X.
  3. ^ "EPA: Past Presidents". Eastern Psychological Association. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  4. ^ Vaughn-Blount, Kelli (April 2008). "Champions of Psychology: Nora Newcombe". APS Observer. 21 (4). Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  5. ^ Ione, Amy. "Book Review: Making Space: The Development of Spatial Representation and Reasoning". The Diatrope Institute. Leonardo Reviews. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  6. ^ Ireland, Corydon. "Of men, women, and space: Radcliffe conference explores gender's measurable dimensions". Harvard University. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  7. ^ Terlecki, Melissa S.; Newcombe, Nora S.; Little, Michelle (1 November 2008). "Durable and generalized effects of spatial experience on mental rotation: gender differences in growth patterns". Applied Cognitive Psychology. 22 (7): 996–1013. doi:10.1002/acp.1420.
  8. ^ "Special Issue: Celebrating 25 years of Applied Cognitive Psychology". Applied Cognitive Psychology. 25 (S1): S1–S282. January 2011. doi:10.1002/acp.1772.
  9. ^ The Psychonomic Society. "Annual Meeting". The Psychonomic Society. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  10. ^ "2011 Psychonomic Society Annual Meeting" (PDF). Keynote Address. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  11. ^ "International Mind Brain Education Society 2011 Meeting--TSN: Panel Two". Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  12. ^ Cimons, Marlene. "Science of Spatial Learning: Center seeks to transform teaching practices". US News and World Report. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  13. ^ Guzdial, Mark. "Science of Spatial Learning: Nora Newcombe at NCWIT". Computing Education Blog by Mark Guzdial. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  14. ^ FABBS. "Learning to Think Spatially: Improving STEM Education in K-12 and Beyond". Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS). Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  15. ^ Klass, Perri. "The Makings of Our Earliest Memories". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  16. ^ Newcombe, N; Fox, NA (February 1994). "Infantile amnesia: through a glass darkly". Child Development. 65 (1): 31–40. doi:10.2307/1131363. ISSN 0009-3920. PMID 8131653.
  17. ^ Newcombe, NS; Lloyd, ME; Ratliff, KR (2007). "Development of episodic and autobiographical memory: a cognitive neuroscience perspective". Advances in Child Development and Behavior. 35: 37–85. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-009735-7.50007-4. PMID 17682323.
  18. ^ "Newcombe to Discuss Integrative Approach to Cognitive Science in Convention Speech". Observations (APS on-line). Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  19. ^ "APA distinguished scientists: DIVISION 1 (SOCIETY FOR GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY)". APA. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  20. ^ Baals, Barbara. "PSYCHOLOGIST NORA NEWCOMBE HONORED FOR RESEARCH AT TEMPLE UNIVERSITY". Temple University. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  21. ^ Moretz, Preston M. "American Psychological Association honors Nora Newcombe for Distinguished Service to Psychological Science". Temple University. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  22. ^ "The WICS Mentorship Award Winners 2006". Women in Cognitive Science. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  23. ^ "Fellows". Cognitive Science Society. Retrieved 30 June 2017.

External links[edit]