concepts, knowledge representation, language representation, language comprehension, compositionality, conceptual combination, psycholinguistics, mathematical modeling

Research Program

My research focuses on the human conceptual system, and my overall goal is to determine the cognitive mechanisms that allow people to represent and use conceptual knowledge. A hallmark of the conceptual system is productivity; the system is capable of generating new concepts based on existing conceptual structures. My current research examines the process of conceptual combination. The primary aim of this research is to understand how relational information is stored in the conceptual system and how such information influences the way people understand and use concepts. I am also investigating how people use language to convey information about such structures.

Selected Awards and Recognition

2015 Finalist for the University of Alberta Award for Outstanding Mentorship in Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities in 2015. “This is a student-nominated award recognizing U of A faculty, staff, or graduate students who have gone above and beyond to help support the development of undergraduate researchers. “

2009 Gagné and Spalding (2009, Journal of Memory and Language) appeared in ScienceDirect’s Top 25 Hottest Articles as the most downloaded article in the Journal of Memory and Language for the April-June 2009 period. During this period, this article ranked among ScienceDirect’s Top 25 in several subject areas: 1st in Arts and Humanities, 6th in Psychology, 9th in Social Sciences, and 16th in Neuroscience. In addition, of the over 1400 articles (dating back to 1985) currently online for the Journal of Memory and Language, this article was the third most downloaded article in the 2010-2011 publishing year with almost 1900 downloads.

1997 Ph.D. Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
1993 M.A. Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
1991 B.A. (Honors) Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB

2011-current Professor, University of Alberta, Department of Psychology
2001-2011 Associate Professor, University of Alberta, Department of Psychology
1997-2001 Assistant Professor, University of Western Ontario, Department of Psychology