Faculty Experts - Thomas Toppino, Ph.D.

Thomas Toppino, Ph.D.

Thomas Toppino, Ph.D.
Chairperson; Professor of Psychology
Department of Psychology
Villanova University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Area of Expertise:

  • Practice in Learning and Memory
  • Visual Perception of Reversible Ambiguous Figures


Exploring the many methods by which we learn and remember has been the focus of Dr. Toppino's long and distinguished career. Another area of specialty is the study of reversible ambiguous figures, visual patterns that create an optical illusion by causing a viewer's perception to alternate spontaneously between two markedly different interpretations. Research in this area promotes greater understanding of how external stimuli are organized and processed cognitively to create meaning.


  • Ph.D., University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
  • M.A., University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
  • B.S., University of New Mexico, Albuquerque

Selected Publications

  • Toppino, T.C. & Cohen, M.S. "The testing effect and the retention interval: Questions and answers," Experimental Psychology, 56, 252-257, 2009.
  • Toppino, T. C., Cohen, M. S., Davis, M. L., & Moors, A. C. Metacognitive control over the distribution of practice: When is spacing preferred? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 35, 1352-1358, 2009.
  • Toppino, T.C., Fearnow-Kenney, M.D., Kiepert, M.H., and Terembula, A.C., "The spacing effect in intentional and incidental free recall by children and adults: Limits on the automaticity hypotheses. Memory & Cognition", 37,316-325, 2009.
  • Toppino, T.C. and Long, G.M., "Top-down and bottom-up processes in the perception of reversible figures: Toward a hybrid model," In N. Ohta, C. MacLeod, & B. Uttl (Eds.), Dynamic cognitive processes (pp. 36-58). Tokyo: Springer-Verlag, 2005.
  • Long, G.M., and Toppino, T. C., "Enduring interest in perceptual ambiguity: Alternating views of reversible figures," Psychological Bulletin, 130, 748-768, 2004.

Selected Professional Experience

  • Director, Cognitive Science Program, Villanova University
  • Research/Training Assistant, Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
  • Consultant on behavior management and teacher training, Alpha Learning Systems, Inc., Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Site Director, Jamaica Project (A compensatory education program in Jamaica, N.Y.), Westinghouse Learning Corporation, New York, N.Y.
  • Associate Professor; Assistant Professor, Villanova University

Selected Research

  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant HD 28751, 1991-1992.
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant HD 21209, 1987-1991.
  • National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH38197, 1984-85.
  • Villanova Faculty Research Grants, 1993, 1985, 1981, 1977.

About Villanova

Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.

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