Elizabeth A. Kensinger

Scholar: 2008

Awarded Institution
Associate Professor
Boston College
Department of Psychology


Research Interests

How do we remember emotional experiences? Nearly every day, we encounter information that triggers an emotional response: we may witness a car crash, watch a beautiful sunset, have a disagreement with an aquaintance, or receive a compliment from a coworker. Our research examines how the emotional nature of an experience influences the cognitive and neural processes that allow us to remember that event. We are particularly interested in understanding the types of details that are remembered about emotional experiences, and in identifying how the affective characteristics of an experience (i.e., their valence and arousal) influence memory.

What phases of memory are affected by emotion?Our research has revealed that emotion influences every phase of memory: it affects where we direct our attention as we initially experience an event (Leclerc & Kensinger, 2008; Waring & Kensinger, 2009), it influences how the event becomes solidified in our memories over sleep-filled delays (Payne et al., 2008), and it molds the ways in which the event is later retrieved (Kensinger & Schacter, 2007).

How are the interactions between emotion and memory influenced by aging and by individual differences? Our research has demonstrated that the effects of emotion are not equal in all individuals; the effects of emotion can be influenced by individual differences in anxiety level or in cognitive control (Waring et al., 2010), or by the age of the person (reviewed by Kensinger & Leclerc, 2008; Kensinger, 2009). We seek to understand the basis for these individual differences in emotional memory.

Inaugural recipient of the 2010 Janet Taylor Spence Awards for Transformative Early Career Contributions, awarded by the Association for Psychological Science.

2011 Young Investigator Award from the Cognitive Neuroscience Society awarded annually to two individuals "to recognize the outstanding contributions by scientists early in their careers"

2010 F.J. McGuigan Early Career Investigator Prize awarded biennially to one individual by the American Psychological Foundation, recognizing "an early-career psychologist engaged in research that seeks to explicate the concept of the human mind from a primarily psychophysiological perspective"

2009 Springer Early Career Achievement Award in Research on Adult Development and Aging (awarded annually by the American Psychological Association, Division 20)

2008 Distinguished Junior Researcher Award, Boston College (awarded annually to one junior faculty member at Boston College, in recognition of the faculty member's overall achievement and promise in research activities)