Psychology students co-author memory article

Kayla Ahlstrand `12 (left) and Carliann Pentz `13 (right) will have their research article published before they graduate ...
April 11, 2012

Social and collaborative memory research by Lake Forest professor Matthew Kelley and students Kayla Ahlstrand ’12 and Carliann Pentz ’13 to be published in the Journal of Cognitive Psychology.

A growing body of research, from the Kelley lab and others, has shown that people tend to remember social information (and information they perceive to be social or from social sources) better than nonsocial information.

The present study showed that simply capitalizing one word in a sentence can boost a person’s memory by roughly 17%, provided that the capital letter indicates the presence of a person in a sentence.  That is, people tend to remember “The rain drenched Daisy” significantly better than the nearly identical sentence “The rain drenched the daisy” because the former is perceived as more social.

Despite this memory enhancement, when people attempt to remember collaboratively (i.e., working together during recall), they tend to recall fewer details than when two people remember individually and pool their recalls. According to Kelley, “We see two very different effects of social processing at work.  On the one hand, encoding information in a social way enhances memory, but remembering information in a social way disrupts memory.”

The study, titled “Collaborative Inhibition Persists Following Social Processing,” is co-authored by Kelley and the students along with Matthew Reysen from the University of Mississippi. It will appear in the winter issue of the Journal of Cognitive Psychology

Carli, who is currently studying abroad in Costa Rica, is interested in looking at memory and the impacts of learning languages and cultures. She plans to get her PhD in neuropsychology. 

“Professor Kelley was very encouraging and made me realize that conducting research experiments is something I could continue to do for a career,” Carli said. “I think it is sometimes difficult for students to imagine themselves getting into research because it might seem too tedious, but when you work with the right people, it is a rather fulfilling task.”