Tuesday, 24 September 2013

An introduction to Emma Ward

I joined the department in early September, and prior to this I worked as a Teaching Fellow at the University of York (2012-2013). Before that I was working on my PhD at UCL (so it’s great to be back in London!). 

I am interested in human memory, particularly the distinction between explicit (e.g., recall, recognition) and implicit (e.g., repetition priming) forms of memory. The traditional view is that they are driven by separate cognitive and neural systems, but the work of my collaborators and I challenges this view. For example, there have been many demonstrations that explicit and implicit memory are differentially affected by various factors, such as ageing. Some have argued that explicit memory declines with age while implicit memory remains stable, but using a modern and robust measurement technique, we find that both forms of memory decline with age. It may not therefore be necessary to make a distinction between explicit and implicit memory systems. 

I am currently working on a project with Chris Berry at Plymouth University (who I got to know when he was a Research Fellow and I was a PhD student at UCL) examining the effects of study duration on explicit and implicit memory. A compelling finding is that although long study durations benefit recognition to a greater extent than short study durations (as one might predict), the opposite is true of priming. I am really interested in this effect as the double dissociation is difficult to interpret within the single-system framework. We are nearing completion of a series of experiments in which we’re trying to get to the bottom of things.

I am very broadly interested in memory retrieval, and factors that affect this, such as attention and context. I am about to put in a bid for a small grant with Marie Poirier at City University investigating the benefit of context reinstatement to memory in ageing. We know that reinstating encoding context facilitates memory retrieval in elderly individuals (e.g., studying an item on a particular background scene is more likely to be remembered later if it is again paired with the same relative to a different scene), but because older individuals have known deficits in building associations between separate pieces of information, it is unclear how the effect operates. Some have argued that the associations are implicit, and we plan to investigate this.

I very much look forward to getting to know all of you and hearing more about your research (and other!) interests. 

You can find me in TG68, email me on e.ward@mdx.ac.uk, or call me on ext. 16329

Emma Ward

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