Motivational influences on attention

Goals and motivations influence what we perceive, how we attend, and what we remember. While motivation can occasionally bias and blindside us (e.g., “wishful thinking”), its effect on cognition is generally beneficial. This is because prioritizing mental resources allows us to concentrate on events, thoughts and actions that matter. Research with younger and older adults has shown that the impact of motivation on cognition remains strong as we age. Indeed, achieving one’s goals, and avoiding negative outcomes, is a key aspect of successful aging. In the MAD lab, we are investigating the cognitive mechanisms through which motivation shapes cognition, as well as the brain-based processes that support motivation-cognition interactions. We are also examining how these mechanisms differ for younger and older adults. Currently, we are using behavioural measures as well as brain-based measures (using non-invasive methods such as electroencephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging) to understand motivational influences on cognition. For example, we are examining how monetary incentives are processed in the brain, and how these processes influence attention and memory. This line of research is supported by the Canada Research Chair program.