Current Research

Research at the Memory Lab is broadly concerned with understanding the nature and function of human memory using cognitive and neuroimaging approaches. Current topics of interest include:







Applying Cognitive Psychology to Education

 

Students commonly experience difficulty maintaining attention over extended periods of time. This complaint is often accompanied by reports of the tendency to mind wander about their personal lives in the context of educational settings. The Memory Lab is actively developing a line of research demonstrating that the act of interpolating extended study sequences, such as lectures, with memory tests can help students to reduce mind wandering and improve learning. As an extension of this line of work, the Memory Lab is also conducting research aimed at improving the effectiveness of online learning.

Memory and Future Thinking

 

Memory is commonly thought of as a capacity that enables people to think about the past. Recently, we and others have begun to develop a new theoretical perspective that highlights the role of memory in helping people to think about the future. This line of research focuses on elucidating the manner in which memories of the past are used to simulate novel future events, the cognitive and emotional consequences of frequently simulating future events, and applying cognitive viewpoints on memory and future thinking to the study of mood and anxiety disorders that are characterized by maladaptive patterns of future thinking.

Neural Substrates of Future Thinking

One of the most striking observations regarding the close relation between memory and future thinking is that of a common network of brain regions that are similarly activated when people remember events from their past or imagine events from their future. The Memory Lab is interested in deconstructing the manner in which regions of this common network contribute to simulation of complex personal future events. Specifically, we are developing novel experimental paradigms that allow us to pinpoint what regions of this common network are involved in generating mental representations of the people, places, objects, and scenarios that typically comprise simulations of personal future events.

Collective Cognition

In addition to spending extensive time thinking about the personal past and future, people also think about the past and future of the world around them. We have recently demonstrated that personal and collective cognition differ dramatically in their emotional tone, such cognitions about the personal past and future tend to revolve around positive events whereas cognitions about the collective past and future tend to revolve around negative events. The Memory Lab is actively carrying out research that aims to elucidate the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie valence-based differences in personal and collective cognition. We are also examining how patterns of personal and collective cognition change across the lifespan and their relations to collective action.