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Noted memory expert to speak at Westminster College

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Posted on Friday, March 24, 2023

Memory expert Dr. Elizabeth Kensinger will discuss how age differences may affect memory retrieval at Westminster College’s 2023 Psychology and Neuroscience Colloquium from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, in the Dietz Sullivan Lecture Hall in the College’s Hoyt Science Center.

Kensinger, chair and professor of psychology at Boston College, specializes in cognitive and affective neuroscience—the effect of emotional content on the ability to remember; specifically, the cognitive and neural mechanisms through which emotion influences the vividness and accuracy of memory, and how these influences change across the adult lifespan.

In her presentation “It’s Not All Bad: How Memories Can Emphasize the Positive Elements of Life’s Challenges,” Kensinger will present research that suggests that how we experience and remember events may depend upon a person’s age.

“Younger adults can focus on the positive aspects of a past experience when instructed to do so, but older adults seem to do so spontaneously and across a wider range of circumstances,” Kensinger says. “While we initially thought these differences might relate to the way that young and older adults re-experienced sensory details of past events, neuroimaging evidence has led us to a different hypothesis—that these age differences may reflect the way that older adults engage the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex during memory retrieval.”

Kensinger will also discuss possible benefits to mental well-being that come from framing memories to emphasize the positive aspects of life’s challenges.

Kensinger has been involved in initiatives to inform members of the judiciary about the science of memory. Elected to a number of highly selective societies including the International Neuropsychological Symposium, the Memory Disorders Research Society, and the International Society for Behavioral Neuroscience, she is the author of the book, “Emotional Memory Across the Adult Lifespan” and co-author of “Why We Forget and How to Remember Better.” She is the 2022 recipient of the Mid-Career Award from the Psychonomic Society and the author of over 150 peer-reviewed articles on the topic of emotion processing and memory.

Kensinger received her undergraduate degree in psychology and biology from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  

The Psychology and Neuroscience Colloquium—established by two Westminster College psychology emeriti professors Dr. David B. Gray ’56 and Dr. Alan G. Gittis—allows Westminster to further immerse undergraduates in the rigorous fields of psychology and neuroscience. Selected speakers will discuss the best emerging research and breakthroughs being done on a national level.

Gray was a member of the Westminster faculty from 1965-2003, while Gittis served from 1976-2011.

This event is free and open to the public.

For more information about the colloquium, please contact Dr. Sherri Pataki, professor of psychology, at 724-946-7361 or or Dr. Deanne Buffalari, associate professor of psychology and chair of the psychology and neuroscience programs, at 724-946-7358 or