Richmond Home

Jane Berry's Lab

Lab Description

As human beings, we are remarkably adept at remembering certain things and forgetting others.  How do these memory and forgetting tendencies change over the life span?  What allows us to remember vividly our first kiss or the site of the Grand Canyon at sunset but to forget an embarrassing social encounter – or at least distort it so that we remember it more positively than it actually occurred?  As we age, how is it possible that we can forget the name of someone we met just two minutes ago but easily recall the name, face, scent, voice, moods, and movements of our first-grade teacher?

At a general level, the Memory & Cognitive Aging Project (MCAP) investigates cognitive changes associated with aging (cognitive aging), and how people think about and experience those changes (metacognitive aging).  We are particularly interested in memory: What is maintained, what declines, and what improves from young adulthood through old age?  Moreover, we are intrigued by the mechanisms that explain maintenance, loss, and stability, and try to uncover these in our research.  We study the experience of memory from the individual’s point of view, with measures of memory self-efficacy (MSE) and social cognitive theory and self-efficacy models (Bandura, 1997) as our organizing structures.  Our work is informed by other self-regulatory mechanisms and methodological approaches (perceptions of self and identity, personal control beliefs, self-serving biases, self-enhancement, the better-than-average effect, and stereotype threat). Broader questions include how memory deficits in adulthood are perceived by others and portrayed in society (stereotypes of aging).  We take a social-cognitive approach to studying the dynamics between perceiver and perceived in the self-situational context of memory aging.  A newer direction points us to non-normative memory aging.   We’re beginning to extend our analyses of the experience of memory loss to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, focusing on the transition from awareness of normative memory loss in midlife to the serious, pathological memory loss that characterizes Alzheimer’s disease.