Professor Aidan Moran: 1956-2020

Prof. Aidan Moran was both an alumnus of UCD and a longstanding faculty member of the UCD School of Psychology. He studied at UCD between 1974 and 1978 and, from the beginning, he excelled. He was awarded first class honours and first place in his class for both his BA and MA in psychology.  Between 1978 and 1979, he worked as a research psychologist for FAS in Dublin, before taking up his first academic appointment as a lecturer at the Department of Psychology at University College Galway (now the National University of Ireland Galway). While at Galway he completed his PhD in cognitive psychology, with Prof. Donald Broadbent acting as his external examiner. He also served as Chair of the Western Group of the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) and a member of PSI Council.

He returned to UCD in 1985 to take up an appointment as college lecturer in psychology, at the then Department of Logic and Psychology, making UCD his academic home for the next 35 years. Aidan’s central area of academic expertise was cognitive psychology. He was a leading thinker on theoretical and conceptual issues regarding the processes of attention, concentration, thinking, reasoning, decision-making, memory, imagery, mental practice, and skilled behaviour. His work was published widely in high impact international psychology journals.  In 2006, he was appointed inaugural Editor-in-Chief of the International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. He wrote over 20 books, many in the field of sports psychology. Aidan was the recipient of many awards including a Fulbright Scholarship,  the University of Florida Stevens International Research Award, the Psychological Society of Ireland's Special Merit Award, and the British Psychological Society’s Distinguished Contribution award for his research in cognitive and sport psychology.  He received a UCD President's Research Fellowship to fund collaboration with colleagues in Imperial College London, and Harvard University. He was a fellow of the Irish and British Psychological Societies and the Association for Psychological Science, USA.

However, Aidan was especially interested in applying what is known about the psychology of cognitive processes to facilitating excellent performance in athletes. He had an international reputation as the Irish sports psychologist and was a founding member of the Psychological Psychology of Ireland’s Division of Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology. He delivered keynote addresses at international congresses around the world, for example the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (Phoenix, Arizona, 2016). A consultant to many of Ireland's leading professional sports performers and teams, Aidan was for a period official psychologist to the Irish Olympic Squad, and was a former chair of Sport Ireland Institute, Quality Assurance Committee.

One of Aidan’s most significant contributions to psychology at UCD was in his role as Director of the UCD Psychology Research Laboratory. Originally based in Thornfield House on the Stillorgan Road opposite RTE, Aidan oversaw the move of the “labs”, first to the Science Lecture Building (now part of the UCD Science Centre), and then to their current home in the Newman Building. In this role, Aidan revolutionised the way undergraduates were taught experimental psychology at UCD and for many UCD graduates, it was their engagement with Aidan in his beloved labs, that has stayed with them. He developed a rigorous system for teaching undergraduates how to use the scientific method, and up-to-date equipment to investigate psychological phenomena. This system which Aidan pioneered, opened the door for UCD psychology graduates to be highly competitive when applying for admission to postgraduate psychology programme at international centres of excellence. To this day, Aidan’s Thornfield Manual (which has been revised regularly since its first edition in the 1980s) is still a central resource guiding the way in which experimental psychology is taught at UCD. When students remember Aidan, one of the things they note is how he remembered everyone’s name on his regular visits to undergraduate lab sessions, and of course, his annual attendance at the UCD PsychSoc Ball was a highlight for many cohorts of studnets. Aidan served as Honorary Treasurer on UCD PsychSoc and was one of the strongest advocates for students in the school. Aidan also published books and audio books for a general student readership on how to use insights from cognitive psychology to manage the learning process at university and to write academic papers.

Aidan’s service to UCD was not only as Director of the Psychology Laboratory. He also served as Head of the UCD Department of Psychology on two occasions (1998-1999, 2001-2002). He was awarded a personal chair (UCD Professor of Cognitive Psychology) in 2006. His wider contribution to UCD included significant contributions to college and university-level committees. He was a regular broadcaster on national radio, speaking about a very wide range of topics relevant to the application of cognitive psychology in everyday life.  

Professor Aidan Moran was a leading UCD psychologist, a wonderful colleague and mentor, an inspirational teacher, and a dear friend to all who worked with him. Many will know he excelled in sport; he particularly known for his love of tennis and soccer, with some UCD graduates being lucky enough to play on his team in five-aside football! However, some may be surprised to know he was also a skilled musician, in particular on the wooden flute. He will be sadly missed by all who have been lucky enough to know him.  He leaves behind his beloved wife Angela and their lovely son Kevin, his brothers Ciaran, Dermot and sister Patricia, and his extended family.

A book of condolences has been opened on the UCD School of Psychology Website.

AC, SG