Cognitive, developmental and neuropsychological aspects of prospective memory, flashbulb memories and 'mind-pops'

This group of researchers is involved in several projects that examine various aspects of memory functioning in everyday life and address the following questions:

  • How do we remember to carry out future intentions?
  • Why do certain images, words or tunes pop into our mind unexpectedly?
  • How do we remember emotionally arousing and significant events (flashbulb memories)?

Prospective memory

Research on prospective memory involves both internal and external collaborations and addresses such issues as the development of prospective memory in children, the effects of ageing on prospective memory, and the neuropsychology of prospective memory (a collaboration on Vietnam Head Injury Study - Phase III, with Jordan Grafman at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland).

Mind-popping

The group is also involved in pioneering research on so-called involuntary semantic memories or mind-popping.

This is the involuntary conscious occurrence of brief items of semantic knowledge (eg a single word, a name or a familiar tune).

At this early stage, research on mind-popping involves naturalistic methods and examines the nature of this phenomenon and possible underlying mechanisms (external collaborator is George Mandler from the University of California, San Diego).

However, we have also started testing a new method of eliciting these mind-pops in the laboratory.

Flashbulb memories

Another large scale longitudinal project examines the accuracy and vividness of flashbulb and non-flashbulb autobiographical memories by asking people to recall how they first heard the news of tragic public events (eg, 11 September 2001, or the death of Princess Diana) or a relatively unimportant personal event such as not winning a small prize.

Some of the earlier results have been already published, others are being still written up.

The research of this group has been supported by several grants from ESRC and the Leverhulme Trust.