My research program is designed to better understand long term memory. I am particularly interested in autobiographical memory, which refers to memory for personal events and information learned across the lifespan. My research is primarily directed toward understanding how autobiographical knowledge is organized and how variables like gender, age, and personality influence our access to that information. For example, women tend to report more detailed, coherent, and emotional autobiographical narratives than men. This could reflect the fact that women have better memories or that they are more comfortable disclosing personal information to an unfamiliar experimenter. Personality variables may also influence access to personal events and information. One would expect extraverted people to be able to remember many occasions when they exhibited extraverted behavior. However, data to support this hypothesis are lacking and some contradictory data have been reported.
I also have research interests in the area of music cognition. Most of my work has examined how people identify familiar melodies. We know that listeners can identify melodies quickly (within five to seven notes) but we are still trying to figure out how listeners use these brief excerpts to distinguish the melody they are hearing from the hundreds or thousands of melodies that are stored in long term memory. I have also done some work looking at how music affects the behavior of older adults suffering from dementia. Many family members and/or caregivers claim that dementia patients respond to music in ways that they do not respond to other kinds of stimuli. My research suggests that music may help dementia patients remember information that was presumed to be forgotten.