Broadly, my research examines cognitive abilities like working memory, attention control, long-term memory, and reasoning. Much of my research leverages individual differences to test theories about human cognition. I also utilize experimental techniques, eye tracking and pupillometry, and combined experimental/individual differences designs. Over the course of my graduate study, I have developed three specific lines of research that I hope to pursue in the future.
Neural basis of attention states
This line of inquiry has explored some of the neural underpinnings of various attentional states, as well as their relationships with individual differences in working memory capacity and attention control. As a reliable indicator of the allocation of attention on a moment-to-moment basis, as well as a physiological marker of the locus-coeruleus norepinephrine system, the pupil can be used as a window into the mind of the observer. I use pupillometry to examine fluctuations in arousal and their relationship to working memory and attention. This line of research has also examined the pupillometric correlates of lapses of attention during sustained attention and visual working memory tasks. Combined with studies examining individual differences in mind-wandering, this research has yielded some interesting findings, and it is an area I hope to pursue further.
I am interested in attention regulation on a global level. To that end, mind-wandering is an interesting phenomenon, as it often reflects a failure to regulate attention in a goal-directed manner. Some estimates suggest that we spend nearly half our lives mind-wandering. Why is this the case? Why do some people mind-wander more than others? Specifically, what are the roles of working memory capacity and attention control in regulating mind-wandering? Do these regulatory roles change as a function of context? Further, what other variables (e.g., motivational states, alertness, personality traits) predict how often mind-wandering occurs? My ongoing studies attempt to answer these questions using both individual differences investigations and experiments.
Although we have known for a long time that memory and attention are integrated aspects of cognition, there is still much to learn about how attention guides memory processes. How do we utilize our attention to flexibly manipulate the contents of memory? For example, how do we use cues in the environment to determine which information is most relevant to remember? Further, how does this relate to the self-generation of cues we use to guide our memory system? From the opposite direction, my research also examines how our memories guide attention. How can we use past experience to more effectively control our attention in the future? I leverage individual differences and well-established attention and memory paradigms to answer these questions.