Marci DeCaro, PhD

Associate Professor

portrait of faculty member

Life Sciences Building, 302

(502) 852-8273

View CV


Life Sciences Building, 122

(502) 852-8334

Learning and Performance Lab


Postdoctoral Fellowship, Vanderbilt University, 2009-2011

PhD, Miami University, 2009

Research Interests

My research program investigates the cognitive processes that support learning and performance. The primary focus of my current research is to examine how understanding of human cognition can be applied to improve educational instruction. I also study problem solving, particularly the factors that lead to more flexible or creative problem-solving approaches. This work is conducted in both the laboratory and classroom.

Select Publications

A complete list, and links to full-text versions, can be found on my lab website.

  • Van Stockum, C. A. Jr., & DeCaro, M. S. (2020). When working memory mechanisms compete: Predicting cognitive flexibility versus mental set. Cognition, 201. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104313
  • Newman, P. M., & DeCaro, M. S. (2019). Learning by exploring: How much guidance is optimal? Learning and Instruction, 62, 49-63. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2019.05.00
  • DeCaro, M. S. (2018). When does higher working memory capacity help or hinder insight problem solving? In F. Vallee-Tourangeau (Ed.), Current Issues in Thinking and Reasoning. Psychology Press.
  • Weaver, J. P., Chastain, R. J., DeCaro, D. A., & DeCaro, M. S. (2018). Reverse the routine: Problem solving before instruction improves conceptual knowledge in undergraduate physics. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 52, 36-47. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2017.12.003
  • DeCaro, M. S., and Van Stockum, C. A. Jr. (2017). Ego-depletion improves insight. Thinking and Reasoning. doi:10.1080/13546783.2017.1396253
  • DeCaro, M. S. (2016). Inducing mental set constrains procedural flexibility and conceptual understanding in mathematics. Memory and Cognition, 44, 1138-1148. doi:10.3758/s13421-016-0614-y
  • DeCaro, M. S., Van Stockum, C. A., & Wieth, M. B. (2016). When higher working memory capacity hinders insight. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42, 39-49. doi:10.1037/xlm0000152
  • Bellinger, D. B., DeCaro, M. S., & Ralston, P. A. S. (2015). Mindfulness, anxiety, and high-stakes mathematics performance in the laboratory and classroom. Consciousness and Cognition, 37, 123-132. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2015.9.001
  • DeCaro, M. S., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2012). Exploring mathematics problems prepares children to learn from instruction. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 113, 552-568.
  • DeCaro, M. S., Thomas, R. D., Albert, N. B., & Beilock, S. L. (2011). Choking under pressure: Multiple routes to skill failure. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 140, 390-406.

Courses Often Taught


    • Experimental Psychology
    • Experimental Psychology (Distance Education)
    • Seminar: Working Memory in Everyday Life
    • Seminar: Applying Cognitive Psychology to Education


    • Cognitive Processes
    • Working Memory
    • Cognition and Instruction