My primary research interests are in the areas of memory and language – specifically, how semantic and episodic memory interact to influence information processing. Over a lifetime of experience, the human cognitive system acquires a vast amount of information, which is stored in semantic memory. This semantic knowledge includes our understanding of the world, thousands of facts, and our mental lexicon (or dictionary).
My current research focuses on three inter-related questions. First, it is important to understand how the information in semantic stores is organized (Balota & Coane, 2008) and what factors influence how and when we can access specific items (e.g., Coane & Balota, 2009, 2010, 2011; Coane et al., 2015). Second, I examine how pre-existing knowledge influences new learning, often resulting in distortions or errors (e.g., Coane & McBride, 2006; Coane et al., 2007; Huff et al., 2012; Coane et al. 2014). A third line of research involves examining what study strategies and techniques result in the most effective long-term retention (Coane, 2013).
In my research, I test younger and healthy older adults, to understand how these cognitive processes change across the lifespan. As we age, certain aspects of memory, primarily those dependent on controlled processing, tend to decline, whereas general knowledge, language skills, and automatic processes are preserved. Thus, a developmental approach allows me to examine changes in memory as a function of age while also providing a means of testing theoretical accounts of different cognitive phenomena.
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