Our Lab's Research Mission

Our central question is, "How do people control their own memory?"

Memory is not something that just happens to us.  We are an active participant in our own learning (Delaney & Austin, 1998).  People have the power to decide when to present information to themselves, and how to study it -- or even whether or not to study at all.

Our interest in how we control our memory has led us to explore fundamental problems in the psychology of memory.  Notably, we are interested in how we benefit from repeating something multiple times, and how we schedule our learning.  Our research on the spacing and testing effects suggests that repeating information helps memory for many different reasons (e.g., Delaney, Verkoeijen, & Spirgel, 2010).  Some of these benefits are under our control, and others happen more automatically.

Sometimes, we use imagination to control memory.

Aside from controlling our study time and study methods, we also make use our imagination to affect our memory.  Imagination and thought let us respond to information that is not right in front of us.

Through the power of imagination, we can forget on purpose (Sahakyan & Delaney, 2003, 2005, 2010; Sahakyan, Delaney, Foster, & Abushanab, 2013) if we have the right traits and abilities (Delaney, Goldman, King, & Nelson-Gray, 2015; Delaney & Sahakyan, 2007) and the motivation or belief in our abilities (Sahakyan, Delaney, & Goodmon, 2007; Sahakyan et al., 2013).  Of course, daydreams and fantasies may also unintentionally take us away from our recent memories (Delaney, Sahakyan, Kelley, & Zimmerman, 2010; Riesenegger, Delaney, Kuhlmann, Baker-Russell, Cardenas, & Torres, in prep).

We also reflect and improve, discovering new strategies.

We often reflect on how well we are doing and develop better ways to remember.  For example, we might adopt new strategies to improve our learning after we are tested.  Instead of just repeating things over and over, we might decide to create a story from a list of words or to relate the words to ourselves (e.g., Delaney & Knowles, 2005; Delaney & Verkoeijen, 2008).  

At the extreme, experts develop radically powerful ways to remember things (Delaney & Ericsson, 2016; Ericsson & Delaney, 1998, 1999).  For example, the memorist Rajan could learn a 10x10 matrix of digits in a short time and repeat it in any order -- up, down, even in a spiral (Ericsson, Delaney, Weaver, & Mahadevan, 2004).

Want to join us?

Our lab is a part of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro's Department of Psychology.  At the graduate level, we accept both doctoral students (Ph.D or combined M.A./Ph.D) and terminal masters (M.A.) students interested in obtaining advanced training in cognitive psychology.  

We also accept undergraduate students who are looking to learn about psychology research through the PSY 433 Directed Research course at UNCG.  With experience in the lab, you may be able to run your own research project under the co-supervision of Dr. Delaney and one of the graduate students.