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Magliano wins Presidential Research Professor

April 2, 2012
Joseph Magliano

Joseph Magliano

The printed word was one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of mankind.

Learning how the human mind translates the printed page into complex thoughts and ideas, however, has been an important point of research for only about 40 years.

One of the leaders in that effort is NIU Professor of Psychology Joseph Magliano, whose work has attracted international attention, garnered more than $7 million in research funding and now has earned him the title of Presidential Research Professor.

“I believe that his work reflects precisely the kind of intellectual ambition that we most prize in academia and is deserving of our highest recognition for research,” says Greg Waas, chair of the Department of Psychology, in making the nomination.

Created in 1982, the NIU Presidential Research Professorship recognizes individuals who have a record of significant and sustained scholarly or creative work that helps them achieve national or international acclaim.

Since his arrival at NIU in 1996, Magliano has written more than 30 book chapters and has published more than 40 peer-reviewed papers, several of which have been featured in top journals such as Memory & Cognition and Cognition.

He has served on the editorial panels of several prominent international journals, and has worked as an officer on the governing boards for the Society for Text and Discourse and is the past president of the Society for Computers in Psychology.

He also is in demand as a lecturer and has presented his research at gatherings around the globe. He will present a series of lectures at the University of Oslo in May.

Arthur Glenberg of Arizona State University says Magliano’s ideas are influencing the entire field of cognitive psychology, pushing it to adopt a broader perspective as he works toward the creation of a general theory of event comprehension and representation.

His research also has the potential to improve how teachers teach and students learn. Toward that end, much of his research relates to improving literacy.

“Many students do not possess the higher level literacy skills that are necessary to succeed in higher education,” Magliano says. “Students in secondary education are typically not provided curriculum that focuses on developing the reading strategies necessary for success in school – exactly at the time when they need to ramp up their literacy skills to accomplish complex, disciplinary specific tasks.”

To attack that issue, Magliano has teamed with NIU colleagues Anne Britt, Keith Millis and Katja Wiemer to form what Morton Ann Gernsbacher, of the University of Wisconsin, calls “one of the strongest assemblies of text comprehension researchers in the U.S.”

Magliano also is working with colleagues around campus to develop the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy. The center, which will include scholars from the colleges of Education, Liberal Arts and Sciences and Health and Human Sciences, will strive to develop a reputation for NIU as a major center for research on language and literacy.

Some of Magliano’s current work includes:

  • Developing reading comprehension assessment tools to determine whether early college students use reading strategies known to promote comprehension, and reading training interventions to teach those strategies.
  • Developing strategies to better teach students how to use knowledge gained from multiple documents to promote critical reasoning about texts.
  • Exploring the relatively new, and under-studied, field of psychocinematics, the study of the psychological processes that support processing of film – how the mind and brain support the understanding and appreciation of film.

Such efforts not only helped Magliano win the honor of Presidential Research Professor; they make him stand out among his peers internationally.

“I believe that Dr. Magliano is a mover and shaker in this field, one of the world’s leaders, and he will continue to be that,” says Paul van den Broek of Leiden University, in the Netherlands, who places Magliano at the top of his area of study.