I'm a newly-reminted Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at New Mexico State University, having spent 8 years at Louisiana State University (why get tenure once when you can -- hopefully -- do it twice?).


My lab investigates human cognitive processes, including the dynamics of episodic memory creation and retrieval (and how those memories influence visual attention), unfamiliar face perception/recognition, and the influence of contextual statistics and LC-NE system activity on attention and perception. We approach these topics using convergent techniques; we use classic behavioral paradigms, but also more modern tools, including eye-tracking, mouse-tracking, pupillometry, and single-unit recording. Our overarching goal is to develop a richer theoretical and applied understanding of the processes by which episodic memory influences real-time cognitive processes. 


Please note: This website is (perpetually) under construction.

NMSU GRFP Workshop
Sep - Oct, 2021



Virtual Psychonomics
November, 2021


See the Cool New Stuff page for not-yet-published items!

Recently published at Cognitive Research: Principles and Implicationsa multi-university collaborative team and I examined the oculomotor changes that accompany expertise development. Across 14 sessions throughout an academic semester, observers completed a hybrid search task, looking for real-world objects from 20 memorized categories in displays containing 0 - 3 targets. Although lots of behaviors change with expertise (e.g., accuracy, response time), we think the coolest was participants' functional viewing fields (FVF). The FVF is the width of the attentional window, so to speak, in which people can process information with high resolution. The FVF is subject to change, however, and can even change within a search trial. As shown below, we found that the FVF changes as expertise develops, allowing observers to take in more visual information within each fixation.

Screen Shot 2021-02-16 at 7.16.03 AM.png

Recently in press at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we (Urgolites et al.) examined single-cell neural activity during a continuous recognition memory (CRM) test. In CRM, observers continually switch between encoding and retrieval: Items are presented one at a time, and are classified as "new" upon their first presentation and "old" upon later repetition.  Instead of just looking at spiking activity during the response phase, we examined neural responses before items were presented. Although this interest period is often used for baseline corrections, we found that it is psychologically meaningful: Pre-stimulus activity predicted encoding success (i.e., whether or not people would later remember that word), and this was strongest in the hippocampus (see right) than in other recorded structures. We interpret these results as reflecting "attention to encoding." Just as there may be a "retrieval mode," we suggest that there is an encoding mode: Hippocampal spiking activity increases when the brain is ready to encode something into long-term memory.