Attention and Memory Laboratory

UNCG's Attention and Memory Laboratory investigates the relations among cognitive processes involved in attention control, working-memory capacity, and intelligence. The lab consists of several small, sound-attenuated rooms for individual participant testing (each equipped with computers, voice-key/response boxes, and experiment-authoring software), a large room suitable for testing small groups in computer- or paper-and-pencil tasks, and a data entry/analysis room with networked computer workstations.

For news, follow us on twitter:  @Kane_WMC_lab

See Michael Kane's Google Scholar page

See Michael Kane's ResearchGate profile 

See Michael Kane's  recent talk on assessing working memory and attention control at the National Research Council [scroll down to my name and start video at the 3:20 mark; talk is 20 min] 

Current Grant Funding

Collaborative Research: The Effects of Mind-Wandering on the Learning and Retention of STEM Content: Experimental and Individual Differences Investigation
National Science Foundation REAL Program (NSF 1252333)
Total project costs across both collaborating sites = $1,489,382
Michael Kane (principal investigator UNCG), Akira Miyake (principal investigator CU-Boulder)
Abstract:  The proposed series of experimental, individual-differences, and classroom observational studies seek to understand and reduce students' failures to attend to, and learn from, classroom lectures in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In these mathematically oriented domains, foundational learning is crucial for mastery of more advanced material and, hence, early learning failures exert a negative cascading effect on subsequent learning. The proposed project takes a converging-operations approach to an important factor contributing to STEM learning, involuntary mind-wandering. In-the-moment attention lapses from external events -- such as classroom lectures -- disrupt encoding information into long-term memory and building mental models to guide ongoing comprehension; moreover, vulnerability to such mind-wandering during learning is predicted by stable individual differences in cognitive ability and by momentary evaluations of personal relevance. Using multiple levels of analysis, the research will examine: (a) how mind-wandering affects learning and retention of STEM concepts and techniques; (b) how typical classroom behaviors may influence student mind-wandering during lectures, thereby affecting learning and retention; (c) whether interventions designed to decrease mind-wandering ultimately improve learning and retention; and (d) how individual differences in both cognitive and non-cognitive variables influence who is affected most (either positively or negatively) from typical classroom behaviors and/or designed interventions in regulating attentional focus and thereby succesful STEM learning.

Executive Control and Schizotypy in the Laboratory and Daily Life
National Institute of Mental Health R15 (MH 093771-01)
Total costs = $418,500
Michael Kane (principal investigator), Thomas Kwapil (co-investigator), Paul Silvia (co-investigator)
Abstract:  Executive functions (EFs) are general-purpose brain mechanisms that allow for self-regulated thought and behavior, and they are critical to intelligence and mental health. However, despite their importance, EFs are poorly understood. Our first goal is to better understand the cognition underlying EFs and EF deficits; we therefore propose a large-scale laboratory study that tests for individual differences in several elemental EF abilities (involving control of attention and memory) using multiple tasks that are tractable and theoretical grounded enough to suggest underlying brain mechanisms. Our second goal is to better understand how particular EF deficits contribute to daily-life functioning and development of mental-health disorders, such as schizophrenia. We address this in two ways. First, the laboratory EF study will also measure schizotypy - a multifaceted aspect of personality reflecting mild schizophrenic-like symptoms that heightens risk of later developing schizophrenic disorders. Second, an experience-sampling study of these same participants will question them at random intervals in their daily lives to assess cognitive and emotional experiences and to test whether the lab measures of EF and schizotypy predict particular mental and behavioral problems in everyday living.

Popular Media Coverage  (from least to most recent)

1) Associated Press story on our working memory and mind wandering research, 03/19/07 (by Malcom Ritter)

2) Michael Kane's radio interview on our mind wandering research, on NC public radio, "The State of Things", 03/28/07

3) Cognitive Daily blog post about the McVay & Kane (2009) working memory and mind wandering laboratory study, 03/02/09

4) A NY Times column cites Kane et al. (2005) on the connection between working memory and intelligence, 03/10/09

5) Wired magazine story by Clive Thompson about mind wandering; includes mention of our daily-life study, 11/09

6) Chronicle of Higher Education article by David Glenn on attention and multi-tasking in the classroom, 01/31/10

7) NY Times article by John Tierney on mind wandering that mentions our work and perspective, but not by name, 06/28/10

8) Scientific American Mind publishes an extensive article by Josie Glausiusz on mind wandering that discusses our work and that of many others, 02/17/11 [most of the article is behind a paywall; email me for a full copy]

9) Scientific American blog post by Scott Barry Kaufman and Jerome L. Singer on positive-constructive mind wandering; it discusses our work in depth and contrasts our approach to those of others, 12/22/11 

10) NY Times Magazine article by Dan Hurley on working-memory training;  Randy Engle is quote regarding our skepticism about such training and our failure to replicate its benefits, 04/18/12

11) NY Times op-ed piece by my colleague, Zach Hambrick, on working-memory training and our failure to replicate its benefits, 05/05/12 

12) APS press release about a number of recent articles in APS journals about mind-wandering, including Kane & McVay (2012), 10/11/12 

13) Prevention Magazine post by Marygrace Taylor, about mind wandering while driving, includes a brief quote from Michael Kane, 12/19/12 

14) Prevention Magazine article by Ann Hettinger, about mind wandering and how to prevent it, includes a brief description of our daily-life findings and some brief quotes from Michael Kane, 1/20/13 

14) BPS Research Digest blogpost by Christian Jarrett, about our study of aging and mind wandering, 2/28/13 

15) New Yorker blogpost by Gareth Cook, about working memory training, including our Redick et al. (2012) study, 4/5/13 

16) Scientific American blogpost by Scott Barry Kaufman, about working memory training, which links to several of our mind-wandering studies with respect to the costs of attention-control failures, 4/16/13 

17) The Guardian on-line article by Elizabeth Day, about working memory training, links to our Redick et al "Georgia Tech" study on dual n-back training, 4/20/13

18) Science News article by Bruce Bower, about our Redick et al study on dual n-back training, 5/9/13 

Stimulus Materials for Downloading

1) Moral dilemma stimuli from Moore, Clark, & Kane (2008, Psychological Science)

2) Cognitive Failures Questionnaire - Memory and Attention Lapses (CFQ-MAL); items from McVay & Kane (2009; JEPLMC). This is a revised version of the Broadbent, Cooper, FitzGerald, & Parkes (1982) Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ), which retains only the original items assessing memory and attention lapses, and which includes additional attention/memory items drawn from similar questionnaires (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Reason & Mycielska, 1982; Sunderland, Harris, & Baddeley, 1983). In our UNCG sample (N=241), Cronbach's alpha = .93, and principal components analysis yielded a first component (eigenvalue = 11.5) accounting for 29% of the variance; a second component (eigenvalue = 2.1) accounted for only 5.3% of the variance.

3) Skepticism course syllabi (PSY 318) and Belief Questionnaire from Kane, Core, & Hunt (2010, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review).

4) Consent form for Fall 2015 classroom study ("Classroom Study of Attention and Learning").

Graduate Students  (and primary research interests):

Matt E. Meier  (working memory, cognitive control, task strategy, aging)
Bridget A. Smeekens  (working memory, mind wandering, creativity, insight)

Lab Alumni  (and dissertation titles):

Alycia Kubat-Silman (2004). Spatial rehearsal in working memory: Spatial selective attention, executive processes, or both?  (dissertation co-directed by John Dunlosky)
Tina M. Miyake (2007). Metacognition, proactive interference, and working memory: Can people monitor for proactive interference at encoding and retrieval?

Jennifer C. McVay (2010). The mediating role of mind wandering in the relationship between working memory capacity and reading comprehension.
Bradley J. Poole (2011). Executive control and attentional scope in visual search: A latent-variable investigation.

The Attention and Memory laboratory is also staffed by an enthusiastic and energetic group of 8 - 12 UNCG undergraduates each semester, who assist with data collection, scoring, and analyses. For information on positions in Dr. Kane's laboratory, please contact him at mjkane (AT) uncg (DOT) edu.