Projects in Cognitive Psychology Supervised by Azriel Grysman

Professor Grysman will supervise one- and two-semester projects in cognitive psychology, with an emphasis on autobiographical memory and/or future thinking. One-semester projects will consist of a literature review on an approved topic, with an eye towards defining testable hypotheses and designing a study in this area. Two-semester projects for next year will focus on one of the following topics of particular interest to Professor Grysman. Specifically, it should be noted that Professor Grysman conducts research in which participants report verbal or typed descriptions of events in their lives, but student work with Professor Grysman is not constrained to this methodology and other (related) topics or methods of inquiry are welcome. 

Episodic Memory and Future Thinking

In recent years, researchers have found that similar brain areas underlie processes in episodic memory and episodic future thinking. Since then, research has focused on what makes memories and anticipated future events similar and different. Examples include sensory and perceptual details, perceived positivity and negativity of past and future events, the effect of different time frames (near future, distant future, etc.), or the role of participant age in this process. Another domain is called the ‘cultural life script,’ which focuses on culturally shared expectations people have for life events.

The Role of Gender in Autobiographical Memory

Research is very inconsistent when it comes to gender in autobiographical memory, but whenever gender differences do emerge, women demonstrate more elaborated, more emotional, and better memory. Because findings are so mixed, my research aims to understand the role of context in the autobiographical memory report process. Students who choose to conduct a thesis in this topic will compare different narrative elicitations, the role of data collected in pairs, groups, individually, or online, or consider how different ways of measuring gender (conformity, perceived similarity, sexuality, etc.) lead to different assessments.

Memory and the Self

Different memories in our lives play different roles in our senses of self – some are highly relevant to who we are and others are not. By examining memories of transitional life events or events that strongly relate to our sense of “who we are,” we can get a sense of how memories help us construct a sense of self, and how reasoning about the self influences how and what we remember.

Meaning Making

One topic that encompasses most other topics that I work on is that of ‘meaning making’ – the issue of how we make sense of events in our lives, including positive, but especially negative events. This topic includes drawing lessons and insights, “focusing on the positive,” or other strategies that people might engage in to make sense of an event or incorporate it into a framework that is meaningful to them.

Cognitive Development

Finally, though this is not a central focus of mine, I am open to supervising studies oriented towards cognitive development, focusing on topics such as children’s memory development; understanding of time; organization of future events; children’s suggestibility with memory, or changes that occur throughout adulthood; or other topics under the broad rubric of cognitive developmental psychology.