I study memory using a combination of cognitive psychology, neuroimaging, and computational modeling methods. I am particularly interested in what factors makes some experiences more memorable than others and how these influences can manifest in future behavior, such as decision making. I also specialize in characterizing inter-individual differences in brain morphology.
Memory does not serve as a veridical recording of prior experiences that can be ‘played back.’ Instead, many factors can lead some experiences to be more memorable than others. For instance, some experiences are more valuable in informing future behavior and should be selectively prioritized. Such experiences include those that automatically evoke reward-, emotion-, or motor-related processes. Biases in memory are particularly relevant if they manifest themselves in future behavior, such as decision making.
Madan, C. R., Ludvig, E. A., & Spetch, M. L. (2017). The role of memory in distinguishing risky decisions from experience and description. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 2048-2059. doi:10.1080/17470218.2016.1220608
Madan, C. R.*, Shafer, A. T.*, Chan, M., & Singhal, A. (2017). Shock and awe: Distinct effects of taboo words on lexical decision and free recall. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 793-810. doi:10.1080/17470218.2016.1167925
Madan, C. R.*, Ludvig, E. A.*, & Spetch, M. L. (2014). Remembering the best and worst of times: Memories for extreme outcomes bias risky decisions. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21, 629-636. doi:10.3758/s13423-013-0542-9
Structural MRIs make it apparent that there are both clear inter-individual differences in brain structure, while also general population consistencies. Examining brain morphology can serve as a complementary neuroimaging approach to fMRI that is not influenced by some systematic biases (e.g., age-related changes in vasculature) while also potentially directly providing novel insights into brain-behavior relationships.
Madan, C. R., & Kensinger, E. A. (2017). Age-related differences in the structural complexity of subcortical and ventricular structures. Neurobiology of Aging, 50, 87-95. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2016.10.023
An important aspect of research is to improve our methodological rigor, along with asking more precise research questions. Through collaborations, I have also done work where my primary goal has been to improve the research methods themselves--either as the direct goal (e.g., developing a novel test of movement imagery) or indirectly (e.g., designing psychophysics stimuli; using formal model selection techniques to more precisely test research questions).
For more details on projects explicitly designed for methods development, see here.