Classically, cognitive control has been viewed as a static process that is implemented prior to the start of an experiment and based on task instructions. However, rather than control being derived solely from task instructions (e.g. ignore words, name colors), evidence is accumulating that stimulus experience influences the implementation and maintenance of cognitive control. This so-called “context-driven” control represents an important refinement to our understanding of the nature of cognitive control processes. Our research seeks to understand the mechanisms underlying this rapid and flexible form of control.
Cognitive Control and Aging
Aging is associated with declines in the efficiency of many cognitive processes including some that support cognitive control, attention, and memory. In order to deal with these declines, older adults often rely on information from the environment to buttress their cognitive performance. For example, an older adult might write down the name of a person they just met while a younger adult would trust their ability to remember that name.
Most of the time, using environmental support from the environment is helpful; however, this default method of processing often extend to situations in which older adults no longer need the support. In fact, some deficits observed may be due to an over reliance on the environment. Our lab studies how older adults use environmental support, the types of support that serve to enhance cognition, and why older adults continue to outsource control to the environment when it is no longer needed.
Media Multitasking in the College Classroom
Students are increasingly utilizing technology such as laptops and smartphones during class time. Existing evidence suggests that the use of these technologies may have a negative impact on students and their academic performance. Moreover, the presence of these technologies represents a distraction for those using them, their neighbors, and the instructor. Consequently, many instructors have implemented technology bans in the classroom. To date, the majority of the research has focused on student’s learning and retention of material for a single lecture. However, relatively little is known about how technology bans influence students experience in the course outside of final grades. We are interested in how technology bans impact other aspects of the student experience including student-teacher rapport and course engagement.