One of the ways in which we are able to maintain goal-directed behavior is by ignoring or suppressing competing goal-irrelevant information in the environment and in memory. Our lab has conducted numerous studies in which we have studied inhibitory mechanisms. For example, our past work has shown the information from an immediately previous event intrudes on memory for a current event even when people are trying to prevent that. We have also shown that active suppression of memories enlists different processes than active suppression of perceptual information. We are currently engaged in several lines of research to continue these investigations and to see how failures of inhibition impair the performance of individuals with ADHD. We use eye tracking and EMG to explore these phenomena.


Our lab investigates basic cognitive control processes, model systems in which these processes are altered or impaired, and real-world consequences of such impairment. For example, one line of research has focused on the ability to delay gratification in childhood, how this ability develops across the lifespan, and outcomes associated with failure to delay gratification. Another line of research has involve the study of mechanisms to dampen emotional engagement when it is not wanted. We have also studied changes in cognitive control that accompany Major Depressive Disorder and ADHD.


For some time, we have investigated how cognitive processes change with age. For example, our older work has compared how younger and older individuals differ in their inhibitory skills. More recently, we have embarked on a large program to test how well older individuals, compared to their younger counterparts, benefit from specific cognitive training. And, in this same context, we have investigated whether tDCS can have beneficial effects for learning by older individuals.  Currently, we are looking into how habitual versus goal-directed behavior varies as a function of age.


Since March 2020 lab members have been studying how laypeople understand topics related to COVID-19. This includes how to get people to understand the concept of exponential growth, how to change vaccine attitudes, how to teach people about “flattening the curve,” and how to best communicate risk using icon arrays. Our interventions focus on increasing understanding and risk avoidance through data visualization. We have also studied the prevalence of cognitive deficits after acquiring coronavirus both as a function of the severity of the acute phase of the disease and as a function of age of the patient.

Currently, our lab is collaborating with Dr. Rick Lewis, Dr. Priti Shah, and Dr. Ayşecan Boduroğlu to develop an online, interactive decision making tool for COVID and Flu vaccinations. We are studying how a combination of tailoring to an individual and using communication techniques (like icon arrays) can influence vaccines attitudes and uptake. We aim to develop a tool that can educate, correct misconceptions, and reduce vaccine hesitancy among Americans.

This project is part of the Social Science Research Council’s Mercury Consortium; more information can be found here.


We have developed a relatively novel and little-used behavioral technique to study how the tendency to respond automatically versus in a goal-directed way changes over time.  This technique allows us to explore changes in responsiveness to automatic tendencies as a function of such variables as age, distractibility, and tendency to mind wander.