Ongoing Research Projects

Cognitive Aging Study

The hallmark of aging is that as people age, their performance on cognitive tasks declines. The Cognition and Aging Study is an on-going behavioral research program devoted to the study of age-related changes in capacities such as memory, language, problem-solving, and decision-making. The primary focus of this research is to identify how cognitive processing changes as a result of the aging process and how these changes contribute to the cognitive impairments associated with healthy aging and with dementia. Current projects in the lab include research on the effects of aging and dementia on mechanisms of executive control, the frontal lobe hypothesis of cognitive aging, and the benefits of cognitive rehabilitation.   

Episodic Memory

This research investigates the mechanisms underlying the encoding, storage, and retrieval of different types of information in memory. Our research incorporates behavioral, computational, and electrophysiological approaches such as event-related potentials (ERPs) to study memory. ERPs are scalp-recorded electral activity that is associated with the processing of stimuli such as words or images. Current projects in the lab include research on the neural and cognitive processes that contribute to the recollection of accurate memories and false memories (when and why people claim to remember events that did not occur).

Gender Differences in Cognitive Abilities

Sex differences in performance on tests of spatial ability favoring males and in tests of episodic memory ability favoring females have been documented in the psychological literature. In our lab, we are investigating the cognitive processes underlying performance differences in general knowledge, spatial ability and episodic memory ability.

Stereotype Priming

Stereotype priming refers to the effect of social stereotypes on perception and action. Researchers have recently shown that when asked to make a rapid decision about the identity of an object (Is the object a gun or not?), people will mistakenly "see" a gun in the hand of a Black person more often than in the hand of a White person. In our lab, we are exploring whether this stereotype effect is in perception (that is, people really see guns) or in response bias (e.g., they are more likely to say "gun" with ambiguous evidence). We are using similar techniques to explore the same types of questions with semantic priming in which the identification of words are affected by previously presented primes, e.g., "candle" affects the identification of "wax".

 

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