Potential PhD Projects

Cognitive development across the lifespan

At which age are children able to remember and perform future intentions such as remembering to pass on information or remembering to bring an assignment back to school on its due date? Does the ability to remember future intentions further develop into adolescence? And when and how does it change across adulthood and aging?

In addition to these questions addressing when and how complex cognition develops across the lifespan, current research also tries to further our understanding why these changes occur and which factors influence performance. Possible candidates are underlying cognitive abilities, task type or setting (i.e. laboratory vs everyday life).

Emotion and cognition interactions

Cognitive performance is not only depending on one’s cognitive abilities, but is influenced by motivational and emotional factors. Emotional task material can improve attention and memory compared with neutral material. Positive and negative mood states seem to have differential effects on cognition and can either be beneficial or detrimental depending on the specific cognitive task. Furthermore, age seems to be a moderator of emotion and cognition interactions and former studies observed age benefits which may seem surprising given the general cognitive decline in aging. However, results are scarce and heterogeneous and more research is clearly needed to better understand the interplay of emotion and cognition and the role of age and motivation.   

Metacognition and strategy use

Former studies show that the awareness of one’s cognitive abilities is positively related with actual cognitive performance. This positive relation may be mediated by strategy use. Someone who is aware of possible difficulties may spontaneously or consciously use strategies to ensure stable performance. Former studies show that cognitive performance, even in complex cognitive tasks, can be improved by the use of different strategies. However, many open questions remain: How persistent are positive effects? Do they generalize to other cognitive tasks? Can participants apply acquired knowledge in their everyday life? Are cognitive improvements related to well-being? Do some participants profit more than others?