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Staff Profile

Dr Jelena Mirkovic

Associate Professor; REF Unit of Assessment Lead

Jelena Mikovic

My main research area is psychology of language learning and use. I am interested in the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underpin our linguistic abilities, and in particular how language learning and use are supported by domain-general learning and memory mechanisms. To address these questions, I use a range of methods including behavioural studies and computational modeling, in both adults and children.


PhD Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
MSc Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
BSc Psychology, University of Belgrade, Serbia



  • 1PY402 Biological Bases of Behaviour
  • 2PY404 Advanced Topics in Brain and Behaviour
  • 1PY401 Cognition
  • 2PY405 Investigating Cognition


  • MPY100 Psychological Research Methods
  • MPY102 Child Development



My main research interest is in psychological and neural mechanisms supporting grammar learning and use in adults and children. I explore these questions using computational models, behavioural experiments, and neuroscientific methods of sleep research.

Current Projects

Grammar learning in children and adults.

In these studies we investigate how children and adults learn grammatical categories from multiple cues. We use made-up languages to simulate the process of learning real (natural) languages. For example, participants in these studies would learn that a fictitious word tib scoiffesh means ‘ballerina’, and ked thetaff means ‘priest’. In these studies, participants learn the new words through an iPad based Alien game. We manipulate the properties of the novel words (e.g., what they mean, or how they sound) in a systematic way to test different theories of grammar learning and use. Emma Hayiou-Thomas (University of York) is a collaborator on this project.

Memory consolidation processes and language learning

The studies involve learning fictitious words such as darb and spling, and their plurals (e.g. 3 darbaff) or past tenses (e.g. splung or splinged). Participants in these studies are re-tested at several time points after learning (e.g. 15 mins or 12 hours after learning), to investigate the influence of consolidation processes on the memory for the fictitious words. In some experiments participants spend some time sleeping in the lab between training and testing while their brain activity is recorded. Gareth Gaskell (University of York) is a collaborator on this project.

The role of socio-economic status and language experience in complex language skills

In these studies we investigate the mechanism by which socio-economic status influences how quickly and efficiently we process complex language. With Jess Brown, a PhD student at the School, we are exploring how socio-economic status influences the type and the amount of complex language we are exposed to, and then how that exposure influences how easily we understand complex sentences, as well as the type of sentences we are likely to produce. Lorna Hamilton is a collaborator on this project.



Gaskell, M.G. & Mirković, J. (Eds). (2016). Speech Perception and Spoken Word Recognition. Psychology Press.

Peer-reviewed publications

Mirković, J., Vinals, L., & Gaskell, M. G. (in press). The role of complementary learning systems in learning and consolidation in a quasi-regular domain. Cortex.

Mirković, J., & Altmann, G. T. (2019): Unfolding meaning in context: The dynamics of conceptual similarity. Cognition, 183, 19-43.

Nag, S., Snowling, M. & Mirković, J. (2018): The role of language production mechanisms in sentence repetition in children: Evidence from an inflectionally complex language. Applied Psycholinguistics, 39, 303-325.

Mirković, J., & Gaskell, M. G. (2016). Does sleep improve your grammar? Preferential consolidation of arbitrary components of new linguistic knowledge. PloS One, 11(4), e0152489.

Humphreys, G. F., Mirković, J., & Gennari, S. P. (2016). Similarity-based competition in relative clause production and comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language, 89, 200-221. 

Trenkic, D., Mirković, J., & Altmann, G. T. M. (2014): Real-time grammar processing by native and non-native speakers: Constructions unique to the second language. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 17, 237-257.

Mirković, J. & MacDonald, M. C. (2013): When singular and plural are both grammatical: Semantic and morphophonological effects in agreement. Journal of Memory and Language, 69, 277-298. 

Gennari, S. P., Mirković, J. & MacDonald, M. C. (2012): Animacy and competition in relative clause production: a cross-linguistic investigation. Cognitive Psychology, 65, 141-176.

Mirković, J., Forrest, S. F. & Gaskell, M. G. (2011): Semantic regularities in grammatical categories: Learning grammatical gender in an artificial language. In L. Carlson, C. Hölscher, & T. Shipley (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 324-329). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Mirković, J., Seidenberg M. S. & Joanisse, M. F. (2011): Rules vs. statistics: Insights from a highly inflected language. Cognitive Science, 35, 638-681.

Altmann, G. T. M. & Mirković, J. (2009): Incrementality and prediction in human sentence processing. Cognitive Science, 33, 583-609.

Mirković, J., Seidenberg, M. S. & MacDonald, M. C. (2008): Acquisition and representation of grammatical categories: grammatical gender in a connectionist network. In B. C. Love, K. McRae, & V. M. Sloutsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1954-1959). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Mirković, J., MacDonald, M. C. & Seidenberg, M. S. (2005): How is gender represented? Evidence from a complex inflectional system. Language and Cognitive Processes, 20, 139-167.

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