Sutton, John

Research interests and relevant publications

I am Professor of Cognitive Science at Macquarie University, Sydney, where I was previously Head of the Department of Philosophy. In addition to current studies of distributed cognition, skilled movement, and cognitive history, I am interested in autobiographical memory and social or collaborative recall. Our ongoing research addresses the nature and role of constructive processes in remembering. Where many dominant views treat construction or reconstruction as leading to distortion, error, or confusion in memory, we follow Sue Campbell in arguing both that true memories too are constructed, and that remembering has many functions other than the preservation of the past.

Querying the prevalent idea in forensic cognitive psychology that social influences on memory generally bring contagion or conformity, we examine longstanding real-world groups who repeatedly renegotiate the meaning and emotional significance of their shared history, such as long-term married couples, siblings, sports teams, and work groups. We are currently extending this research to address, firstly, other forms of collaborative cognition, and, secondly, the potential role of rich social interaction as a factor counteracting neurocognitive decline in aging populations.

Here's my first post on the project blogRemembering from the Outside? (with  Chris McCarroll)

A.J. Barnier, J. Sutton, C.B. Harris, & R.A. Wilson (2008). A conceptual and empirical framework for the social distribution of cognition: the case of memory. Cognitive Systems Research 9 (1), 33-51.

J. Sutton (2009). Remembering. In P. Robbins & M. Aydede (eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition. Cambridge UP, pp.217-235.

J. Sutton, C.B. Harris, P.G. Keil, & A.J. Barnier (2010). The psychology of memory, extended cognition, and socially distributed remembering. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (4), 521-560.

C.B. Harris, P.G. Keil, J. Sutton, A.J. Barnier, & D.J.F. McIlwain (2011). We remember, we forget: collaborative remembering in older couples. Discourse Processes 48 (4), 267-303.