Janet L. McDonald, Professor

photo of McDonaldOffice: 223A Audubon Hall
Department of Psychology
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Office Phone: (225) 578-4116
Email: psmcdo@lsu.edu


Currently recruiting elementary children in Grades 3-6 for a vocabulary study. The study takes only 30 minutes to complete and can be conducted at the LSU campus or at a library near you. Mail lkemp4@lsu.edu to find out more, or fill out the survey at the following link to begin the participation process.


Research Interests

My research is done within the field of psycholinguistics. I am specifically interested in first and second language acquisition, bilingualism, and language comprehension.

Many of my research projects deal with language learning in adulthood. If you have studied a foreign language in high school or college, you probably have encountered some frustration. Unlike your native language, acquired when you were a child, learning a second language in adulthood seems effortful and difficult. Your ultimate level of mastery in the second language is also likely to be much less than that of native speakers. Some researchers speculate this is because there is a biologically determined critical period for language acquisition—that is, that language must be acquired early in life for mastery to be nativelike.

I am interested in alternative explanations of age of acquisition effects on language mastery based on cognitive processes. In particular, I am interested in exploring how differences in phonological ability, working memory capacity and processing speed influence grammatical mastery. My lab has examined this relationship in adult second language speakers, native speakers under processing stress, and in native speaking children.

There are numerous research opportunities in my lab for students who are interested in language acquisition, language comprehension or bilingualism (or who are bilingual themselves!) 


DR. MCDONALD investigates how people (children and adults) acquire and comprehend language. She is interested in factors (e.g. age of acquisition, working memory capacity, amount and type of exposure) that determine the mastery of the structural aspects of language. Research projects include investigating language mastery in elementary school- aged children, in native speaking adults under different learning and testing conditions, and in second language learners. Students with interest in linguistics, cognitive processing, and second language learning (especially if you are fluent in two or more languages) are encouraged to contact Dr. McDonald in room 223A Audubon Hall, 578-4116.


Recent courses taught include:

  • PSYC 2001 Honors Introductory Psychology
  • PSYC 2016 Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences
  •  PSYC 7030 Cognitive Bases of Behavior
  • HNRS 3000 Psychological Methods

Representative Publications

Comeaux, I. & McDonald, J. L. (in press).Determining the effectiveness of visual input enhancement across multiple linguistic cues. Language Learning.

McDonald, J. L., Seidel, C. M., Hammarlund, R. & Oetting, J. B. (in press). Working memory performance in children with and without SLI in two nonmainstream dialects of English. Applied Psycholinguistics.

McDonald, J. L. & Roussel, C. C. (2010). Past tense grammaticality judgment and production in non-native and stressed native English speakers. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 13, 429-448.

McDonald, J. L. (2008). Grammaticality judgments in children: The role of age, working memory, and phonological ability. Journal of Child Language, 35, 247-268.

McDonald, J. L. (2008). Differences in the cognitive demands of word order, plurals, and subject-verb agreement constructions. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15, 980-984.

McDonald, J. L. (2006). Alternatives to the critical period hypothesis: Processing-based explanations for poor grammaticality judgment performance by late second language learners. Journal of Memory & Language, 55, 381-401.