School of Psychology

Learning, Memory and Consciousness

A functional memory system is essential for independent living. Without our memories we would be trapped in an eternal present, unable to reminisce about the past or plan for the future. We investigate the processes that underlie memory using a combination of behavioural experiments and neuroscientific techniques such as functional MRI and neuropsychology. The aim of this approach is to pursue a unified study of memory in which brain structures are linked to their functions. Ultimately this will lead to an understanding not only of normal human memory but also of how memory can be affected by neurological damage (for example, Alzheimer’s disease or stroke).


Conscious versus unconscious processes

  • What sort of things can we unconsciously learn about? 
  • What are the mechanisms by which we acquire unconscious knowledge? 
  • To what extent is hypnosis the carrying out of unconscious intentions?
People: Zoltan Dienes

See also: Zoltan Dienes Webpage

Episodic memory 

  • How do we update and change memories over time?
  • How do we remember locations in the world and the events that happened there?
  • What links memory and imagination?
  • What is the functional role of the hippocampus and related brain regions?
  • What are the contributions of recollection and familiarity processes to memory?
People: Chris Bird
Episodic Memory Lab

Unconscious influences and metacognition

  • How can unconscious processes influence our conscious feelings and judgments and how might that be applied in clinical contexts?
  • What are the limits of unconscious learning and what can these tell us about different theories of consciousness?
  • To what extent do variations in self-control influence unconscious processing?
  • How does our awareness of what we know (metacognition) dissociate from our implicit knowledge?

People: Ryan Scott

Autobiographical Memory

  • What retrieval mechanisms allow us to edit our personal past?
  • When does remembering contribute to false memories?
  • Does restructuring the personal past support counterfactual thinking and our ability to simulate the future?
  • How does visual perspective during retrieval alter the personal past?
  • What neural mechanisms support retrieval of autobiographical memories?

People: Peggy L. St. Jacques