Skip to content


Research in Dr. Unsworth's laboratory combines experimental and differential approaches to cognition in order to examine basic memory and attention processes and their role in higher-order cognition. Specifically, we are interested in individual differences in memory and attention capabilities and their relation to higher-order cognitive processes (such as intelligence and reasoning).  Our current work explores two functional characteristics of working memory: the need to actively maintain information in the face of distraction and the need to retrieve information that could not be maintained. It is argued that both functions are needed in a host of cognitive activities, but to differing degrees based on task demands.  Finally, work in the laboratory is aimed at better understanding search and retrieval dynamics in recall. 

Selected Publications:

Unsworth, N. (2019). Individual differences in long-term memory. Psychological Bulletin, 145, 79-139.

Unsworth, N., & Robison, M.K. (2017). A Locus Coeruleus-Norepinephrine account of individual differences in working memory capacity and attention control. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 24, 1282-1311.

Unsworth, N., Fukuda, K., Awh, E., & Vogel, E.K. (2014). Working memory and fluid intelligence: Capacity, attention control, and secondary memory. Cognitive Psychology, 71, 1-26.

Unsworth, N., Heitz, R.P., & Parks, N.A. (2008).  The importance of temporal distinctiveness for forgetting over the short-term.  Psychological Science, 19, 1078-1081.

Unsworth N., & Engle, R.W. (2007).  On the division of short-term and working memory:  An examination of simple and complex spans and their relation to higher-order abilities.  Psychological Bulletin, 133, 1038-1066.

Unsworth, N., & Engle, R.W. (2007).  The nature of individual differences in working memory capacity:  Active maintenance in primary memory and controlled search from secondary memory. Psychological Review, 114, 104-132.