Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects


Psychological Sciences

Document Type



Memory retrieval is influenced by cognitive processes that occur during encoding, some of which can be measured with pupillary responses. For example, during retrieval, pupils dilate more to previously-seen old items compared to new items, a phenomenon called the pupil old/new effect. Encoding variables that influence the strength of the memory trace for encoded stimuli play a role in successful discrimination of new versus old items. Additionally, the cognitive load during encoding (i.e., the effort needed to encode information), also impacts memory success by taking up mental resources needed to successfully encode information. In this study, I conducted a meta-analysis to examine whether pupillary dilation effects are stronger after encoding manipulations that influence memory strength or cognitive load. This analysis showed that both memory strength and cognitive load affect pupil dilations. However, the impact was greater for cognitive load, suggesting that the amount of effort required to process information during encoding has a greater impact on pupil size than variables that affect the strength of the memory trace. Pupillometry can be a useful measure of memory effects, so future research could use pupil measures to study variables that affect other types of memory, such as explicit versus implicit memory.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Sharon Mutter, Ph.D.


Cognitive Psychology | Other Psychology