Research in the MAD Lab uses self-report measures, behavioural data, and physiological measures (EEG, fMRI) to study how motivation and emotion affect cognitive processes in younger and older adults. Current studies in the lab fall into three broad themes.
Affect and decision making
Choices we make “in the heat of the moment” are often different from those we make while “cool and collected.” Examples include unsafe sex, impulse purchases and ill-considered online behaviour. In the MAD Lab, we examine the effects of emotional arousal on decision making using behavioural economics paradigms. We also try to understand how these laboratory findings relate to real-world decision making. For example, a recent project investigated how negative pandemic experiences influence decision quality in younger, middle-aged, and older adults. This line of research is supported by a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
Motivational influences on attention and memory
Goals and incentives influence what we perceive, what we pay attention to, and what we remember. In the MAD Lab, we are investigating the cognitive mechanisms through which motivation shapes attention and memory, as well as the brain-based processes that support motivation-cognition interactions. We are also examining how these mechanisms differ across age groups (younger vs. older) and types of motivation (intrinsic vs. extrinsic). For example, we recently showed that curiosity, a type of intrinsic motivation, predicts memory performance in both younger and older adults. This line of research is supported by the Canada Research Chair program, and by funds from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund.
Prosociality is defined as thoughts and actions aimed at improving the welfare of others and is expressed in a wide range of real-world behaviours, such as charitable giving, informal helping, volunteering, and other forms of civic engagement. Research in psychology and allied disciplines shows that older adults are more likely than younger adults to engage in these behaviours, and to hold opinions and beliefs that prioritize collective well-being. However, our understanding of the development of prosociality is still very limited. Current research in the MAD Lab examines the role of resources, motivations, and future thinking patterns in age-related changes in prosocial behaviour. This line of work is supported by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).