Prof. Aidan Moran 1956-2020

An appreciation from Dr Tadhg MacIntyre.

Aidan Moran (1956-2020) BA, MA, PhD, FAPS, FPsSI, FBPsS, Reg Psychol., C. Psychol., Full Professor of Cognitive Psychology at University College Dublin (UCD), sadly passed away on March 16th, 2020. A first class honours psychology graduate from UCD at both undergraduate and Master’s level, he studied for his PhD at NUI Galway with Prof. Donald Broadbent as his external examiner. He later returned to UCD as a college lecturer and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship (1994) which facilitated research in the US, forging lasting collaborations with Dr Sean McCann (USOC), Dr Shane Murphy (formerly USOC), and Prof. Bob Singer (University of Florida). His most notable work The Psychology of Concentration in Sport Performers: A Cognitive Analysis (1996) was conceived during this sabbatical. A meta-analysis of mental practice in 1994 was among his classic works cited 1500 times and his collective research has already generated over 7000 citations. These numbers are, however, not the measure of the man. Members of the BPS Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology, readers of The Psychologist and many across the field of sport psychology were major beneficiaries of his insights, research and mentoring.

Ironically for a scientist-practitioner who influenced the field greatly, Aidan was reluctant to assume the label sport psychologist. In his own words captured in Becoming a Sport Psychologist by PESS graduate Dr Paul McCarthy (Glasgow Caledonian University) and Prof. Marc Jones (Manchester Metropolitan University): ‘I don’t regard myself as a sport psychologist at all. …since I don’t have any formal qualifications in sport psychology.’ Sport for Aidan, was both a playground for his own pursuits in competitive tennis and a natural laboratory for the study of the cognition and action. 

Aidan was as likely to cite William James or Roger Bartlett, as any research contemporary. As he often remarked, if you want to find a new idea, look in an old book. Acknowledging the hand of history and predecessors was a hallmark of his work. The Looking Back column featured, with his long-time friend John Kremer (formerly QUB), the history of sport psychology, the history of psychology in Ireland with Mark Campbell and me as co-authors, and his own conceptually rich research on concentration, attention and mental imagery. Aidan posed difficult conceptual and theoretical questions about cognitive psychology on topics including motor cognition, attention, concentration, mental imagery, meta-cognition and the cognitive processes underlying expertise in skilled performance. 

Beyond his doctoral students, Aidan established a vast network of collaborators internationally including Prof. Sonal Arora (Imperial College), Prof. Marc Jones (MMU), Prof Craig Mahoney (UWS), Prof. David Lavallee (Abertay University) and his long-time friend and co-author Dr John Kremer (QUB). In 2006, he was appointed inaugural Editor-in-Chief of the International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology which grew to become a leading journal in the field. His door was always open to conversations on the perennial questions in the field and Professors Dan Gould, Bob Weinberg, Anders Ericsson were among those who passed through it.

This provocative thinker, wonderful mentor with an abundance of kindness will not be forgotten in the history of sport psychology. Our condolences are with his wife Angela, son Kevin, his brothers Ciaran, Dermot and sister Patricia, and his extended family.

- Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre ([email protected]) 
University of Limerick

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