Explore the Memory and Cognition Lab


 

SUMMARY: Psychology professor Kethera Fogler's Memory and Cognition (MAC) lab studies mental processes such as memory, learning, and language.


By Amanda Feldman, Kayla Gallico, Zithlaly Sosa and Amanda Powell
MAC lab members

Students from the Memory and Cognition (MAC) Lab

Psychology professor Kethera Fogler’s Memory and Cognition (MAC) lab studies mental processes such as memory, learning, and language. Current research projects focus on specific cognitive processes in everyday situations, like eyewitness testimony, learning a name, differences between video game players and novices on symbolic learning, and memory for TV shows after binge-watching.  

False Memory

Fogler began studying false memory when she was a graduate student at Saint Louis University. The Memory and Cognition (MAC) Lab at JMU has continued that line of research.  Research on false memory can have a significant impact in the real world, for instance, eyewitness testimony.  The MAC lab looks at false memory using DRM Lists (Roediger, & McDermott, 1995) of semantically related words (e.g., bed, blanket, dream), each of which are semantically related to a non-presented word (e.g., sleep), the critical lure.  Participants often say that the critical lure was part of the word list.  The MAC lab is specifically interested in responses in which participants say they are certain they remember seeing the word and provide rich contextual detail about seeing the word, even though it was never actually encountered. Fogler’s MAC Lab is investigating the role of encoding in this type of false memory and has tested several variations on this design including adding colors for context, adding a period of sleep between the study and the testing phases, comparing right- and left-handed participants, and looking at age differences in cognitive ability.

Proper Names

Have you ever had trouble remembering the name of someone you met at a social event?  You’re not alone.  Research has shown that proper names are harder to learn and remember than other types of information.  Most names fall under the category of “non-descriptive” because they do not provide any information about a person’s qualities.  This is why nicknames are so helpful and easily remembered; they are usually derived from qualities of a person’s appearance or personality, and can be considered “descriptive” thereby aiding learning and retrieval of the name.  Fogler’s MAC lab is studying the role of descriptiveness in name learning, while employing a phenomenon known as the testing effect (or retrieval practice), in which all participants are given face-name pairs to learn and then either restudy the pairs or are tested on the pairs.  Research shows that being tested, rather than restudying the information, results in better recall.  We hypothesize that descriptive information will facilitate learning and memory, especially in the conditions where participants are tested more than once.

Gaming

Typically, video games are played recreationally, but often people do not think about the cognitive implications of this activity.  In the MAC lab, Fogler and her students are investigating how video game playing affects language-learning abilities. This project is investigating whether the symbolic learning that is involved in learning to play video games may be similar to learning a language. Each gaming console has different buttons that make different things happen in a game and as a player becomes more proficient at the game they are actually becoming fluent in the “language” of that particular game.  Prior research has indicated that expert gamers excel in a number of cognitive domains, but language-learning abilities is a novel variable in this area of research.

Binge-Watching

Research on study habits has shown that massed practice (e.g., “cramming”) results in poorer memory than spaced practice (e.g., study session spread out over several days). What about the recent binge-watching craze?  Would the same effects be found when watching a new television series?  With the development of recent video streaming companies such as Netflix, HBO Go, and Amazon Prime, modern society no longer has to wait an entire week for the next episode of their show to air.  The MAC lab is investigating whether massed practice (i.e., binge-watching), as compared to spaced practice (i.e., watching one episode per week) has a detrimental influence on our memory and recall ability in terms of television viewing.  The results of this study could extend current knowledge of spaced versus massed practice effects and lead to further understanding of memory in everyday activities.

Conclusion

Fogler works carefully with her students to understand these mental processes.  Please contact Fogler at foglerka@jmu.edu if you would like to learn more about her research lab.

Published: Thursday, March 30, 2017

Last Updated: Friday, March 31, 2017

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