The vast majority of the projects being done in the Memory Lab are focused on various aspects of event cognition and how they impact human memory. Click on the tabs for more complete descriptions of various on-going projects.
In this project, people move from one location to another, moving objects either across a large room or from one room to the next. What we have found is that passing through a doorway disrupts memory for a variety of information including both memory for the objects being carried as well as for pairs of words. This work has also been extended to smaller screens and real world environments.
When a person is presented with a set of information, memory is better for the set as a whole if the information is distributed among several events rather than being part of one large event. We have found that this is true when people are given a word list and either walk through a doorway halfway through the list or not. The same effect has been found using computer windows and narrative structure to segment events.
In this project, people first memorize a map of a building (a research center). Then, after memorization, people navigate through a virtual version of that space. During this navigation, people are probed for their knowledge about the location of items within that space. What we have been finding is that information tends to be most available for the current location, and that locations that were recently occupied, and now irrelevant show evidence of active suppression.
Directed forgetting occurs when a person has poorer recall for information that he or she has been instructed to forget. Typically, the instruction to forget applies to an entire list of items, or the instruction is given after each item is presented. The current work in this area is assessing whether the instruction is effective if it only applies to a subset of the information after it has been presented.
Prospective memory is when people remember to do things in the future, such as going to an appointment at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. People usually test prospective memory performance by using time-based cues (such as in the previous example) or event-based cues (such as giving a message to a friend the next time you see him). We are currently testing an unexplored type of prospective memory, which we call location-based, to assess how spatial location may influence the way people remember prospectively.
A series of projects is underway that assess the long-term retention functions that are observed across a variety of stimuli, encoding, and retrieval conditions. These data will be interpreted in light of consolidation theory and formal memory models.
This project is focused on looking at how the experience of synesthesia influences memory. Our previously published work has found that synesthesia can improve memory for word lists and that synesthetes are less susceptible to false memory effects using the DRM paradigm. Current work is focusing on whether there are spillover effects to sensory modalities that are not affected by synesthesia, and whether a synesthetic von Restorff effect can be observed.
When information is integrated into a single event model, it undergoes less interference at retrieval compared to information stored in multiple event models. Less interference is measured by faster response times. A current project is assessing whether this pattern of data holds for retention intervals of up to two weeks.
Memory retention typically follows a function of rapid initial forgetting that slows by a negatively accelerated rate across time. This retention (or forgetting) curve has been observed across a variety of stimuli, tasks, and time intervals. The form of this function is a stable and reliable finding in psychology. However, recent work in our lab has observed a retention function that is positively accelerating. A current project is underway to assess the replicability of these data.