Research Interests

My research interests are metacognitive awareness, recognition memory, the Remember-Know paradigm, and cognitive aging and associated issues.

Recognition memory and the Remember-Know paradigm

My PhD research had the central aim of exploring how people make and understand judgments of subjective experience using an extension of Tulving’s (1985) Remember-Know paradigm that includes the separate categories of Familiar and Guess (Conway, Gardiner, Perfect, Anderson, & Cohen, 1997). In this paradigm, when participants’ memory is tested using a recognition test where some items are ‘Old’ (were on the study list) and other items are ‘New’ (were not on the study list), for every item that a participant recognizes as an ‘Old’ item they are asked whether their recognition experience is one of Remembering, Knowing, Familiarity, or Guessing.

In my PhD experiments the key themes I was interested in were: How should the subjective experiences of Know and Familiar be defined and understood in recognition memory? What is the relationship between confidence and subjective experience? And how do objective manipulations influence subjective experience? To examine these themes, my doctoral experiments explored: lay-persons’ conceptions of subjective experience; how participants use subjective states to overcome experimental familiarity; and the relationships between source judgments, confidence judgments, and subjective experience judgments.

The key findings of my doctoral work were that there are critical differences between Remember, Know, and Familiar. Know and Familiar judgments were shown to dissociate on recognition accuracy, source accuracy, confidence, and response time. In contrast, Remember and Know judgments were only shown to be differentiated by source accuracy. These findings have implications for methodological and theory development and single- and dual-process accounts of memory. See the “Publications” tab for links to download papers reporting the results of my PhD research.

I continued this line of research in my postdoctoral position at the University of Victoria. For example, two experiments examined whether subjective experience or confidence judgments are affected when the ‘other’ judgment is also made on every trial, e.g., are people more conservative with their confidence when instructed to think about their subjective experience? I also continued my internet-based questionnaire work looking at lay interpretations of subjective experiences of memory. And looking at how task demands and definitions of subjective experience affect memory, confidence, and reports of subjective experience.

The associative deficit in aging

In addition to continuing research in the above areas, my postdoctoral research at the University of Richmond examined another aspect of higher order cognitive processing: metacognitive awareness at encoding. With Dr. Jane Berry I examined younger and older adults’ awareness of the associative deficit for different types of stimuli. The associative deficit is the impaired memory performance typically demonstrated by older adults when paired items are re-arranged on the recognition memory test. In a novel extension of this paradigm we demonstrated that for items that lack intrinsic semantic meaning such as names and non-words, younger adults also demonstrate an associative deficit. However, both younger and older are unaware of this deficit and the difficulty of recognising rearranged pairs and this is reflected in their metacognitive predictions and postdictions of performance.

Person perception: Aging and Alzheimer’s disease

At Richmond Dr. Berry and I also collaborated on a project examining differences in younger and older adults perceptions of the competencies of a hypothetical target who was described as either aging healthily or having Alzheimer’s disease.  Participants rated “Mrs. Stevenson” on Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), and memory abilities, and we also assessed their knowledge of general aging, normal and pathological memory aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and their anxiety about aging.  We found critical interactions on IADL and memory competencies – older adults perceived the healthy Mrs. Stevenson as more capable of cognitively effortful activities (e.g., managing finances), and with better memory abilities, than the AD Mrs. Stevenson.  These differences were greater than differences between targets perceived by younger adults.  Additionally, younger adults held more negatively biased perceptions of aging and more positively biased perceptions of AD than older adults.

Metacognitive awareness: Judgments-of-learning

Prior to my PhD I was also involved in research with Martin Conway and Chris Moulin at the University of Leeds looking at judgments-of-learning (JOLs) which are a metacognitive prediction made during study. JOLs are typically made for each item a person is studying – participants are asked how likely they think they will be to correctly recognize that item on a later memory test. The experiments I conducted using JOLs looked at the relationship between JOLs made during study and Remember-Know judgments made at test to see whether these two metacognitive judgments tap the same underlying memory processes. We also looked at the relationship between these two types of judgment in younger and older adults; and how this relationship might change over repeated study-test trials.

Autobiographical memory

At the University of Leeds I also conducted research into autobiographical memory. My Masters research explored the relationship between illness/health-related autobiographical memories and current perceptions of health in older adults. Other projects I carried out as a Research Assistant looked at event boundaries in autobiographical memories, the relationship between children’s acquisition of language and their autobiographical memories, and a cross-cultural project looking at differences in flashbulb memories across five countries. See the “Publications” tab for articles and book chapters where data from these projects is published.