Recent PhD Graduates

Congratulations to two recent PhDs from the Categorization lab. Rachel Rabi defended her dissertation August of 2016 and is now working as a postdoc at the Rotman Institute in Toronto. Rachel’s doctoral work investigated category learning in older adults. You can read some of her work on her Research Gate profile and her doctoral dissertation is available here.

Karen Zhang completed her dissertation in November of 2016 and she is now a clinical intern at St Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton Ontario. Karen’s work was on patient learning and understanding. You can read her dissertation here, and peer reviewed publications are forthcoming.

Mindfulness and Cognitive Flexibility

Author and Lawyer Jeena Cho discussed some current research on mindfulness and cognitive flexibility with Dr. Minda for an article in Forbes magazine. Mindfulness meditation can help people to be more attentive to their own emotions, and by being aware of negative feelings as soon as they arise, people can engage in positive remediation rather than dwelling on the negative cognition. Read the entire Forbes article here.

Category Learning in Older Adulthood: The Role of Age and Executive Functioning

If you are at the Psychonomics meeting in Boston in November, stop by the Cognitive Aging session (Back Bay C & D, Saturday Morning, 8:00-10:00). Dr. Minda will be giving a talk entitled “Category Learning in Older Adulthood: The Role of Age and Executive Functioning” based on some of Rachel Rabi’s doctoral work.

We asked older and younger adults to learn category sets of varying rule complexity. Older adults performed comparable to younger adults when learning single-dimensional rule-based categories, but struggled greatly with learning complex rule-based categories, which taxed their working memory resources. A second experiment examined whether complex rule-based categorization performance could be improved in older adults by reducing task demands. Following familiarization with the category set, older adults demonstrated marked improvements in performance. The reduction of the working memory demands allowed the older adults to formulate the complex rule and to perform comparably to younger adults. Our findings suggest that age-related declines in executive functioning may be associated with difficulty learning more complex rule-based categories.

Slides from the talk are available HERE

Will meditation help stressed-out lawyers?

Western News has a short article about our new research study underway with Jeena Cho. We’re looking at how mindfulness meditation affects lawyers. This is part of a larger stream of research in my lab where we’re examining mindfulness and cognition in the lab as well as in the workplace. We’ve got a similar study underway with 3M Canada as well….we’re hoping to have preliminary data in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Cognitive Aging and Category Learning

A brief write-up in Science Daily of some research and an article published this summer with some collaborators at  Ruhr University in Bochum Germany. We showed that older adults learned perceptual classifications about as well as younger adults, until they reached the point that they had to learn some exceptions. The older adults tended to stick with the rules, even if it meant making more errors. But other work (under review now) is looking at ways to mitigate or eliminate some of the mild cognitive impairments associated wth normal aging…

Poster at ICPS, 2015

If you are heading to Amsterdam on March 12-14, for the the inaugural International Convention of Psychological Science stop by Poster Session XI – Board: XI- 052 on Saturday to see Emily Nielsen present a poster on self-regulatory exertion and category learning. Emily’s poster is based on work done with Rahel Rabi and I last year, and that was recently published in Frontiers in Psychology.

The ICPS is a joint venture with the APS and the Initiative for Integrative Psychological Science designed to bring together psychological researchers and to discuss cutting edge research and current issues in Psychology. Of course, you’ll want to see Emily’s poster but the convention will also feature keynote talks by Stanislas Dehaene, George Lakoff and Terrie E. Moffitt.

Ego depletion interferes with rule-defined category learning but not non-rule-defined category learning

New research published in Frontiers in Psychology by lab members Rahel Rabi and Dr. Minda explored the relationship between self regulatory behaviours and category learning. The study examined whether temporarily reducing participants’ executive functioning via a resource depletion manipulation would differentially impact RD and NRD category learning. Participants were either asked to write a story with no restrictions (the control condition), or without using two common letters (the ego depletion condition). Participants were then asked to learn either a set of RD categories or a set of NRD categories. Resource depleted participants performed more poorly than controls on the RD task, but did not differ from controls on the NRD task, suggesting that self regulatory resources are required for successful RD category learning. We argued that these results lend support to multiple systems theories (Like CoVIS) and also clarify the role of self-regulatory resources within this theory.