Ph.D. Stony Brook University, 2010
Cognitive aging; Human memory; Cognition in context; Age-based stereotype threat in older adults; Emotional memory and positivity effects; Collaborative memory; Truth judgments
Dr. Barber (she/her) completed her Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology at Stony Brook University in 2010. She then received postdoctoral training in cognitive aging at the Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California. She is now an Associate Professor and the Co-Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Psychology at Georgia State University. Her research on age-based stereotype threat has been supported by multiple grants from the NIA. Based upon this work, in 2019 she also received the J. Don Read Early Career Award from the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. This award recognizes the outstanding contributions of emerging scholars in the areas of applied memory and cognition. More recently, Dr. Barber was also named a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Barber also currently serves as an Associate Editor at Memory & Cognition.
My research is broadly focused on how memory is affected by socioemotional factors across the adult human lifespan. Within this topic, I have several complementary lines of research.
1. The effects of ageist stereotypes on older adults’ memory performance
Stereotype threat occurs when people feel concerned about the possibility of confirming, or being negatively judged by, a negative stereotype. In response, people often underperform compared to their potential. For example, when older adults encounter situations where they could confirm the stereotype that ‘older adults are not cognitively capable’ they can experience stereotype threat and underperform on cognitive tasks. My research examines the clinical significance of age-based stereotype threat for older adults and identifies which older adults are most adversely affected. I also examine the cognitive mechanisms underlying this effect and use this information to develop interventions that can lessen its adverse impact.
2. Emotional well-being and the positivity effect
Despite age-related physical and cognitive declines, there is now substantial evidence that the daily emotional experience of older adults is relatively more positive, and/or less negative, than that of younger adults. Likewise, as people get older they tend to favor positive over negative information in attention and memory, and this is known as the positivity effect. My research examines the mechanisms and moderators of these effects. I also examine the accuracy with which younger and older adults can predict their future feelings and behaviors, and evaluate how regulating emotions affects younger and older adults’ memory of emotion-eliciting events.
3. Collaborative memory and illusory truth effects
Remembering the past is often a social activity. People collaboratively remember the events of their lives with close others, juries collectively recall trial events before reaching verdicts, and students participate in study groups to master lecture materials. My research examines how various types of social interactions affect the quantity and quality of what people learn and remember. During interactions with others, it is also common for certain claims to be repeated, and research has shown that repeated information is often perceived as more truthful than new information. This finding is known as the illusory truth effect, and it helps explain why advertisements and propaganda work, and why people believe fake news to be true. Research in my lab also examines when and why repetition impacts belief.
Dr. Barber welcomes applications from prospective Ph.D. students interested in any of these research areas.