• <div style="background-image:url(/live/image/gid/95/width/1600/height/300/crop/1/42360_HOMECOMING_darker.rev.1523377981.jpg)"/>

Communications and Marketing

Kelley and student publish semantic memory research

Research on part-set cueing impairment and facilitation in semantic memory, by Professor of Psychology Matthew Kelley and Sushmeena Parihar ’20, was recently published in the journal Memory.

How many Zodiac signs or countries in South America can you name off the top of your head? Can you remember the names and order of the Harry Potter books or the eight planets in our solar system? If you were given the names of all the Pixar or Star Wars films in a scrambled order, could you reorder them by theatrical release date? To complete these tasks, you would need to access your semantic memory—that is, the general knowledge that you’ve stored over your lifetime.

Parihar, a psychology major from Mumbai, India, began working with Kelley on psychology research for a Richter Scholar project in the summer of 2017. 

“Professor Kelley is an amazing mentor,” says Parihar of that experience. “He allows his students the freedom to be creative and explore without feeling lost. He’s truly interested in what you want to do and in helping students learn.”

In their article, Kelley and Parihar examined the influence of hints, or cues, on different types of semantic memory tests. Depending on the type of material and the type of test, hints sometimes hurt memory and other times will enhance memory.

“On the semantic free recall tests, participants were asked to recall all of the Zodiac signs, South American countries, and Campus Residence Halls that they could, in any order that they wished, either in the presence of cues, where half of the signs or countries were provided, or without cues. On these tests, the cues impaired memory by an average of 13 percent–that is, hints hurt memory on a free recall test,” explains Kelley. 

“However, the cues facilitated performance by an average of 20 percent when participants completed ordered memory tasks, such as naming the Harry Potter books or Pixar films in sequence. For instance, by providing the names of the first, third, and fifth Harry Potter books in their proper positions, participants were better able to remember the names and order of the second, fourth, sixth, and seventh books.”

Kelley and Parihar co-wrote the article before Parihar had even begun her sophomore year. “For students to be able to submit an academic journal article as an undergraduate, especially in their first year, is a significant accomplishment,” praised Kelley.

Parihar is grateful for the opportunity Kelley and Lake Forest College provided her: “The College opens your eyes to all the opportunities that are available to you. Everyone here is trying to build each other up and help each other so that, collectively, all of us can achieve our dreams. After this summer, all I want to do is spend every day in the lab learning, growing, and exploring. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”