Heather D. Lucas, Assistant Professor

Heather LucasOffice: 210 Audubon Hall
Department of Psychology
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Email: hlucas2@lsu.edu

View my VITA.

Dr. Lucas is a member of LSU's Multidisciplinary Institute for Neuroscience Discovery (MIND)

Dr. Lucas is accepting applications for Fall 2024. 

Research Interests

My research examines the cognitive neuroscience of learning and memory, with a primary focus on episodic memory. The work in my lab centers on understanding the neural and cognitive processes that allow us to acquire new memories, as well those involved in accessing and using representations that are stored in memory.

I have a particular interest in how people manage (or mismanage) the limits of their own memory systems by making decisions about when and how to interact with to-be-remembered information— for example, by deciding what information to prioritize, how best to learn it, and when to rely on heuristics and intuitions. I approach this topic by using a number of converging methods, including EEG/ERPs, eye tracking, and the study of certain patient populations with memory difficulties. I also include both younger and older adults in my research to examine how neural, cognitive, and social facets of aging combine to impact the way individuals approach tasks involving learning and memory.

Current areas of inquiry include the following:

  • Dynamic interactions between memory and exploration
    Learning and exploration are inextricably intertwined. However, much of human exploration consists of “micro-choices”—such as eye movements, covert shifts of attention, or other forms of information sampling—which learners tend to deploy rapidly and with minimal awareness, and which are not easily amenable to verbal report. I use high-temporal resolution techniques such as eye tracking and EEG to reveal “hidden” patterns of exploratory study behaviors and their effects on memory outcomes. This work focuses on both the exploration of physical spaces (e.g., via eye movements) as well as mental “spaces” such as episodic and semantic knowledge stores.
  • The use of heuristics during learning and memory tasks
    There is ample evidence that we monitor and act on not only the content of our memories, but also the degree of fluency (ease or difficulty) associated with processing mnemonic information. Another goal of my research is to understand the roles that fluency-based heuristics play in encoding and retrieval decisions. My work has examined ways in which peoples’ inferences about why processing is fluent contributes to their tendency to use that sense of fluency during memory judgments.
  • Social-cognitive influences on learning and memory
    Some determinants of learning success have less to do with one’s cognitive abilities per se than with beliefs about one’s cognitive abilities. For example, relative to younger adults, older adults tend to report lower levels of memory self-efficacy, or beliefs in their own abilities to use memory effectively in various situations. In addition, memory failures are a source of distress for many older adults, and will likely become more so due to the increasing prevalence and awareness of age-related memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease. In another line of research, I investigate how these psychosocial facets of aging influence older adults’ approaches and reactions to learning and memory activities.

Dr. Lucas conducts research on how people learn and remember information, and how different aspects of memory are implemented in the brain. She has a particular interest in how people manage the limits of their own memory abilities by making decisions about when and how to interact with to-be-remembered information – for example, by deciding what information to prioritize and how to best learn it. Another topic of interest is how memory contributes to a variety of tasks that require flexible thinking, such as creative problem solving. Dr. Lucas a variety of methods in her work, particularly event-related potentials (ERPs) and eye tracking. Students participate in the design of experimental materials, data collection, data entry/analysis, and participant recruitment. Opportunities for additional involvement may be available for interested and motivated students who work in the lab for multiple semesters. For further information, contact Dr. Lucas at hlucas2@lsu.edu.

Representative Publications

Lucas, H. D., Hubbard, R. J., & Federmeier, K. D. (2017). Flexible conceptual combination: Electrophysiological correlates and consequences for associative memory. Psychophysiology, 54, 833-847.

Lucas, H. D., Monti, J. M., McAuley, E., Watson, P. D., Kramer, A. F., & Cohen, N. J. (2016). Relational memory and self-efficacy measures reveal distinct profiles of subjective memory concerns in older adults. Neuropsychology, 30, 568-578.

Lucas, H. D., & Paller, K. A. (2013). Manipulating letter fluency for words alters electrophysiological correlates of recognition memory. Neuroimage, 83, 849-861.

Lucas, H. D., Taylor, J. R., Henson, R. N., & Paller, K. A. (2012). Many roads lead to recognition: electrophysiological correlates of familiarity derived from short-term masked repetition priming. Neuropsychologia, 50, 3041-3052.