Olivia Drake

Wesleyan Welcomes 71 New Faculty in 2018-19

New Faculty Orientation was held on Aug. 28.

This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 71 new faculty, including 15 tenure-track faculty, 10 professors of the practice, 1 adjunct, and 45 new visiting faculty.

“Academic Affairs, in conjunction with a number of departments and centers, ran successful searches for a number of new professor of the practice positions this year in order to expand the curriculum in particular areas such as writing, education studies, physics, and others, where these faculty could be of great value,” explained Joyce Jacobsen, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Bios of the new ongoing and full-time visiting faculty are below:

Anthropology

Joseph Weiss, assistant professor of anthropology, received his BA from the University of British Columbia, and his MA and PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago. He comes to Wesleyan from a position as curator of western ethnology at the Canadian Museum of History. Weiss is a sociocultural and political anthropologist whose scholarship explores intersections between indigenous sovereignty, time, and ecology. He has conducted fieldwork with the Haida community of Old Massett, in Western Canada, since 2010. His first book, Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life Beyond Settler Colonialism (University of British Columbia Press), refutes settler colonial ideas of indigenous people as futureless by foregrounding Haida self-determination in reckoning with pressing political, social, and environmental change. Weiss is currently working on two projects: the first an oral history of the relationships between the Haida community and the Canadian Forces Station Masset, a naval radio base on Haida territory (1943–97); the second an ethnographic project tracing the category “Indigeneity” and its ecological imaginaries at the United Nations. His research has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the American Philosophical Society, among others, and he has collaborated with the University of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History on a project examining relationships between indigenous people and museums. Weiss’s teaching interests include global indigeneity, temporality, ecological politics, ethnographic methods, anthropological theory, research ethics, and museum anthropology. This semester, he is teaching The Anthropology of Time and Toxic Sovereignties: Life after Environmental Collapse.

Center for the Arts 2018–2019 Events Feature Urban Latin Dance, Court Dancers and Musicians of Yogyakarta

In conjunction with a visit from Hamengkubuwono X, the Sultan of Yogyakarta in Indonesia, the Center for the Arts (CFA) will host a performance by the court dancers and musicians of Yogyakarta, featuring the instruments of the Wesleyan gamelan on Nov. 9.  “Music and Dance of Yogyakarta” is one of several upcoming performances hosted by the CFA in 2018–19.

Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts announces the highlights of the 2018–2019 season, including two world, two New England, and four Connecticut premieres.

“This season we are taking a cue from CONTRA-TIEMPO, whose new work ‘joyUS justUS’ posits that the expression of joy is the greatest act of resistance,” said Sarah Curran, director of the Center for the Arts. “During the 2018–2019 season, we claim joy and expressive freedom, through which we represent, create, and expand our community. We are particularly excited about presenting the first solo exhibition in New England by up-and-coming multimedia artist Kahlil Robert Irving, including a number of new pieces commissioned by the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.”

The 2018–2019 season includes:

On Sept. 12, the exhibition “Chado: The Way of Tea” opens. The exhibit explores the prominent role and significance of the tea ceremony as an art and spiritual practice in China and Japan. Objects displayed have been selected from the College of East Asian Studies collection and loaned by tea enthusiasts in the Wesleyan community. Several media are represented, including ceramics, lacquerware, bamboo, wood, iron, textiles, and calligraphy. In addition, photographs from National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71 will be featured.

  • Sept. 7: Ninth annual “Bach to School” organ concert by Artist-in-Residence Ronald Ebrecht marks the start of a celebration of 30 years of his teaching at Wesleyan
  • Sept. 8: Seventh annual “The MASH” festival highlighting Wesleyan’s student music scene, inspired by Fête de la Musique (also known as Make Music Day)
  • Sept. 12–Nov. 30: “Chado—The Way of Tea” exhibition at College of East Asian Studies Gallery, including photographs from National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71
  • Sept. 21: “Point of Interest” featuring a series of solos, duets, and quintets set to soundscapes by hip-hop dancer and breaking artist Raphael Xavier
  • Sept. 26–Dec. 9: “Street Matter — Decay & Forever / Golden Age,” first solo exhibition in New England by Saint Louis–based multimedia artist Kahlil Robert Irving
  • Sept. 30: Kitchen Ceilí—Private Lessons Teacher Stan Scott PhD ’97, Dora Hast PhD ’94, and George Wilson—joined by the Rangila Chorus and vocalist/guitarist Sam Scheer
  • Oct. 5: Connecticut premiere of “They, Themself and Schmerm,” a disturbingly hilarious personal tale by New York City–based trans actor Becca Blackwell
  • Oct. 7: “This Is It!” The Complete Piano Works of John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce: Part XVI, including world premiere of composer’s 12-tone piece “Homage to Aronchik”
  • Oct. 11–14: 42nd annual Navaratri Festival of Indian music and dance, including the Connecticut debut of Bharata Natyam dancer Mythili Prakash
  • Oct. 26: “The River,” a collaboration between adventurous string quartet ETHEL and Grammy Award-winning Taos Pueblo flutist and Native American instrument maker Robert Mirabal
  • Oct. 26–27: Fall Faculty Dance Concert to feature new visiting assistant professors Julie Mulvihill and Joya Powell in collaboration with other Dance Department faculty and guest artists
  • Oct. 28: The Castlefield Trio performs original jazz and blues tunes, including world premieres by torch heartbreaker Sarah LeMieux and drummer Andy Chatfield
  • Nov. 9: Music and Dance of Yogyakarta, copresented with Yale University and the Asia Society in conjunction with a visit from Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, featuring the Wesleyan gamelan
    Kitchen Ceilí and Friends will perform free of charge Sept. 30. Formed in 1993, Kitchen Ceilí features Private Lessons Teacher Stan Scott PhD '97 on vocals, guitar, mandolin, and banjo; Dora Hast PhD '94 on vocals, tin whistle, and recorders; and George Wilson on vocals, fiddle, banjo, and guitar. The group returns to The Russell House to perform original and traditional music from Ireland, America, England, Scotland, and South Asia.

    Kitchen Ceilí and Friends will perform free of charge Sept. 30. Formed in 1993, Kitchen Ceilí features private lessons teacher Stan Scott PhD ’97 on vocals, guitar, mandolin, and banjo; Dora Hast PhD ’94 on vocals, tin whistle, and recorders; and George Wilson on vocals, fiddle, banjo, and guitar. The group returns to The Russell House to perform original and traditional music from Ireland, America, England, Scotland, and South Asia.

  • Nov. 15: Artist-in-Residence Ronald Ebrecht performs works for harpsichord to welcome a marvelous Frank Hubbard harpsichord to campus
  • Nov. 16–18: Theater Department production of “Mr. Burns, a post-electric play,” written by Anne Washburn and directed by Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater Pirronne Yousefzadeh
  • Nov. 30: Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music and puppeteer Sumarsam and Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble directed by Artist-in-Residence I.M. Harjito present a wayang kulit (Javanese puppet play)
  • Feb. 8, 2019: New England premiere of “joyUS justUS,” a participatory urban Latin dance theater experience by Los Angeles–based CONTRA-TIEMPO
  • Feb. 28–March 2, 2019: Connecticut premiere of “The Fever” by Brooklyn-based theater artists 600 HIGHWAYMEN, the duo of Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone
  • March 29, 2019: Connecticut debut of Alsarah (Sarah Mohamed Abunama Elgadi ’04) and The Nubatones’ lavish, joyful East African retro-pop, full of Arabic-language reflections on identity and survivalTickets are available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., by phone at 860-685-3355, or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office, located in the Usdan University Center.

    Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour prior to each ticketed performance during the season, subject to availability. The Center for the Arts accepts cash, checks written to “Wesleyan University,” and all major credit cards. Groups of ten or more may receive a discount to select performances. No refunds, cancellations, or exchanges. Programs, artists, and dates are subject to change without notice. For more information on any of the events, visit the CFA website.

Kuenzel Coauthors Paper in the Journal of Macroeconomics

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel, assistant professor of economics, is the coauthor of a new paper published in the September 2018 Journal of Macroeconomics titled, “Constitutional Rules as Determinants of Social Infrastructure.”

In the paper, Kuenzel and his coauthors, Theo Eicher from the University of Washington and Cecilia García-Peñalosa from Aix-Marseille University, investigate the link between constitutional rules and economic institutions, which are a key driver of economic development and economic growth.

Kuenzel and his coauthors find that the determinants of economic institutions (or social infrastructure) are much more fundamental than previously thought. In addition to constitutional rules that constrain the executive, highly detailed aspects of electoral systems such as limits on campaign contributions and the freedom to form parties are crucial factors for improving the quality of countries’ economic institutions. Moreover, Kuenzel and his colleagues show that basic human rights have profound effects on economic institutions, a dimension that previously had not been explored in the literature.

Class of 2022 Gathers for Group Photo, Says Farewell to Families

On Aug. 29, members of the Class of 2022 said farewell to their families at an emotional gathering and later gathered on Denison Terrace for a class photo. Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78; Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley; and student orientation leaders taught the first-years the Wesleyan fight song and emphasized the song’s “Go Wes!” ending. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Prior to the farewell, President Roth “A good liberal education empowers you to figure out what you love to do, learn how to do it better, and then how to share that talent with the rest of the world.”

Gottschalk, Greenberg ’04 Release Second Edition of Islamophobia

Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, and history major Gabriel Greenberg ’04 are the coauthors of Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment: Picturing the Enemy, Second Edition, published in July 2018 by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. The duo released Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy in August 2007.

Islamophobia explores anxieties surrounding anti-Muslim sentiments through political cartoons and film. After providing a background on Islamic traditions and their history with America, it graphically shows how political cartoons and films reveal a casual demeaning and demonizing of Muslims and Islam from both sides of the political aisle. Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment offers both insights into American culture’s ways of “picturing the enemy” as Muslim, and ways of moving beyond antagonism.

“The new edition adds two new chapters and makes many changes to account for the rise of President Trump and mainstream white nationalism,” Gottschalk explains. The book also incorporates parts of Greenberg’s honors thesis at Wesleyan and features more than 50 images that highlight Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bias from conservative and liberal media outlets alike.

Gottschalk also is director of the Office for Faculty Career Development and coordinator of the Muslim studies certificate. His books, which include American Heretics and Religion, Science, and Empire, draw on his research and experience in India, Pakistan, and the United States.

Greenberg lives with his wife and kids in New Orleans. He is the congregational rabbi of a historic synagogue, and also serves as the rabbi for Avodah: New Orleans, a local service corps that seeks to address effects and root causes of poverty in the city.

Wesleyan Welcomes 810 Students to the Class of 2022


Annabella Machnizh ’22, from Mexico City, who arrived early for the International Students Orientation, helped her roommate, Amanda McHugh '22, of Westchester, N.Y,, on arrival day. The two chose to room together, citing similar living habits yet different social circles to make the transition both comfortable and interesting. Both were looking forward to explore a variety of different courses.

Annabella Machnizh ’22, from Mexico City, who arrived early for the International Student Orientation, helped her roommate, Amanda McHugh ’22, of Westchester, N.Y., on arrival day. The two chose to room together, citing similar living habits yet different social circles to make the transition both comfortable and interesting. Both were looking forward to exploring a variety of different courses. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

On Aug. 29, in temperatures hovering around 90 degrees, 810 new students from the Class of 2022 moved into their new residence halls on New Student Arrival Day.

Wesleyan received a record-breaking 12,788 applications for a spot in the Class of 2022, of which 2,219 were admitted. Of those, 810 matriculated and another 44 students transferred into Wesleyan.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth '78 helps a student move into her residence in the Butterfields.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 helps a student move into her residence in the Butterfields. Several Wesleyan staff, residential advisors, and student-athletes assisted the new students with their belongings.

After settling into their home-away-from-home and saying farewell to their families, the new students participated in an array of New Student Orientation social activities involving group sessions with orientation leaders, academic forums, autobiographical monologues written and presented by current students, a neon space party, a student of color luncheon, an a capella concert, a pride reception, stargazing, karaoke, and more.

The students also were introduced to the First Year Matters program, which provides a shared experience for the entire class as well as an introduction to intellectual life at Wesleyan. This year, the students will collectively read A Body Undone, by Christina Crosby, professor of English, professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies.

Orientation concluded with the Common Moment, where members of the incoming class are brought together through music and performance.

“A good liberal education empowers you to figure out what you love to do, learn how to do it better, and then how to share that talent with the rest of the world,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth during a gathering with the first-year students and their families.

(Cynthia Rockwell contributed to this article)

Paul Tran ’22, with parents Hoa Hoang and Thai Tran, from Houston, Texas, chose Wesleyan for its open curriculum. He’s considering a major in English and government, with the goal of becoming a civil lawyer. Asked if he minded that his son was so far away from Texas, father Thai Tran was both cheerful philosophical: “This, he chose. We have to follow.”

Paul Tran ’22, with parents Hoa Hoang and Thai Tran, from Houston, Texas, chose Wesleyan for its open curriculum. He’s considering a major in English and government, with the goal of becoming a civil lawyer. Asked if he minded that his son was so far away from Texas, father Thai Tran was both cheerful and philosophical: “This, he chose. We have to follow.”

Cambria Weaver '22 from Santa Barbara, Calif. sets up her room in the Butterfields. Weaver learned about Wesleyan from alumni. “All were into different things and they were each very passionate about what they were doing," she said.

Cambria Weaver ’22 from Santa Barbara, Calif., sets up her room in the Butterfields. Weaver learned about Wesleyan from alumni. “All were into different things and they were each very passionate about what they were doing,” she said.

Gina Gwiazda '22 from Santa Cruz, Calif. came to Wesleyan seeking a supportive community and open curriculum.

Gina Gwiazda ’22 from Santa Cruz, Calif. came to Wesleyan seeking a supportive community and open curriculum. Gwiazda and Weaver are roommates.

Dewellyn Howard ’22, with his mother Sabrina Spencer, made the trek up from Lafayette, La., along with Dewellyn’s father, grandmother, and sister. Howard chose Wesleyan for the warm community vibe he felt when he visited. “Everybody I met just welcomed me, like we’re all family here.” A prospective math major, he was also eager to explore the COE Think Tank. Other assets that that drew him here: Wesleyan’s libraries, as well as the surrounding community (“not a big city, but not out in the middle of nowhere”) and the fact that his best friend was just down the road at Yale.

Layla Krantz, from New York City, and Sarah Bozarian, from Dracut, Mass., set up their room in Clark. “I liked everything about Wesleyan,” says Bazarian, who is contemplatiing a major in either English or government and waiting to talk to her adviser about some potential changes in her schedule.

Layla Krantz ’22, from New York City, and Sarah Bazarian ’22, from Dracut, Mass., set up their room in Clark Hall. “I liked everything about Wesleyan,” says Bazarian, who is contemplating a major in either English or government and waiting to talk to her advisor about some potential changes in her schedule.

Theo Li '22, from Elgin Ill., is considering a major in biology; Adam Kielbasa '22, from Griffith, Ind., says psychology might be his focus.

Theo Li ’22, from Elgin Ill., is considering a major in biology; Adam Kielbasa ’22, from Griffith, Ind., says psychology might be his focus.

Additional photos of Arrival Day are below:



International Students Hail from 37 Countries

International student Hairihan, who goes by the American name Hari Hanson, is a heritage native of Inner Mongolia, but is a current resident of Beijing, China. During International Student Orientation, he met Naranchimeg Altai of Mongolia. Hirihan and Naranchimeg are the only two Mongolian international students at Wesleyan.

International student Hanson Hairihan ’22 is a heritage native of Inner Mongolia but a current resident of Beijing, China. During International Student Orientation, he met Naranchimeg Altai ’22 of Mongolia. Hairihan and Altai are the only two Mongolian international students at Wesleyan.

Throughout high school, Naranchimeg Altai of Mongolia favored the subjects of math and physics and had dreams of becoming an engineer. “I was a science person,” she said. “But then I started doing some research on schools and discovered liberal arts … and Wesleyan seemed to be a good fit. I wanted a large community with small classes and many options. I like physics, but I also like English and education.”

Altai applied, was accepted, and on Aug. 26, she took her first steps on American soil. She joins 116 other new international students at Wesleyan who come from locations across the globe.

The international students make up approximately 13 percent of the Class of 2022 and hail from 37 countries including China, Russia, India, Mongolia, Nepal, The United Kingdom, and Oman. This year, Wesleyan also welcomes students from Kosovo, Rwanda, Poland, and Lebanon.

“No question. This is truly a class of global citizens,” said Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid.

Wesleyan’s overall population of approximately 450 enrolled international students includes U.S. citizens living abroad as well as international citizens studying here on campus.

Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble Participates in Indonesian Festival

Members of Wesleyan’s Gamelan Ensemble participated in the 2018 International Gamelan Festival in Solo, Java, Indonesia, Aug. 9–16. The annual festival is sponsored by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture and the Provincial Government of Solo and features various programs honoring gamelan—not only for music but also as historical and cultural artifacts.

During the conference, Sumarsam, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, delivered a keynote address titled  “From Texts to Mantra: Imparting Meaning to Javanese Wayang Puppet Play.” He also led a discussion about his new book, written in Indonesian, titled Imparting Meaning to Wayang Puppet Play and Gamelan: Java-Islam-Global Intersection.

Artist-in-Residence I.M. Harjito of the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble performed classical Javanese gamelan pieces.

In addition, the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble performed three experimental compositions, including Paula Matthusen’s or say the day is jeweled and burning (2018), Alvin Lucier’s Music for Gamelan Instruments, Microphones, and Amplifiers (1994), and Ron Kuivila’s The Fifth Root of Two (2018). Matthusen is the chair and associate professor of music; Lucier is the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, and Kuivila is professor of music and director of Wesleyan’s electronic music and recording studios. Matthusen and Kuivila also attended the Gamelan Festival.

Other members of the Wesleyan group who participated in the festival included Alec McLane, music librarian and director of the World Music Archives; Jennifer Hadley, library assistant for scores and recordings and World Music Archives; music graduate students Katrice Kemble; Gene Lai, Christine Yong, Feiyang Xu and Ender Terwilliger; alumni Maho Ishiguro MA’12, PhD ’18, Aloysius Suwardi MA ’97, Joseph Getter MA ’99, Leslie Rudden ’77, Carla Scheele ’78 and Peter Ludwig ’99; and community members Darsono, S. Pamardi, Urip Sri Maeny, Denni Harjito, Anne Stebinger, and Anton Kot.

Wesleyan has an emerging synergy with the performing arts of Indonesia, specifically the region of central Java. A Javanese gamelan study group has been in existence at Wesleyan since the late 1960s, and in 1984 a court gamelan from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, was donated to Wesleyan.

On Nov. 9, court dancers and musicians of Yogyakarta will perform in Crowell Concert Hall and feature the instruments of Wesleyan’s gamelan. In addition, Hamengkubuwono X, the Sultan of Yogyakarta, will visit and tour the Center for the Arts, and participate in a Music Department symposium on Islam and performance.

“The Sultan has been aware that the gamelan housed in the World Music Hall originates from his court,” said Wayne Forrest ’74, MA ’77. “He has made it one of his priorities to support the understanding of the culture of his region by sponsoring tours as well as gifting instruments.”

Photos of the International Gamelan Festival are below: (Photos courtesy of the International Gamelan Festival)

Sumarsam is one of the keynotes speakers. His keynote speech entitles “From Texts to Mantra: Imparting Meaning to Javanese Wayang Puppet Play.”

Sumarsam discussed his new book titled, Imparting Meaning to Wayang Puppet Play and Gamelan: Java-Islam-Global Intersection. He also delivered a keynote talk titled “From Texts to Mantra: Imparting Meaning to Javanese Wayang Puppet Play.”

Centeno ’19 Honored in Iowa for Undergraduate Environmental Research

Eduardo Centeno ’19 presented a poster at Iowa State University in August.

Wesleyan earth and environmental sciences major Eduardo Centeno ’19 was honored for presenting the “best undergraduate talk” at the 6th Polar Marine Diatom Workshop (PMDW), held Aug. 6–10 at Iowa State University. The honor also earned him a featured appearance on Iowa Public Radio.

Centeno, a McNair Scholar, discussed his research titled “Environmental Interpretation of the mid-Pliocene at Site 697.” For this study, Centeno examined the diatoms (fossils of algae) off of the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula using a marine sediment core drilled at a location known as Site 697.

Eduardo Centeno holds his “best student talk” award at the workshop.

“Diatoms are really important microscopic plants that have been estimated to produce about 20 to 40 percent of the world’s oxygen,” Centeno explained. “They grow pretty much anywhere light and water are present and they’re great tools for geoscientists to explore climate change in the past because they are really sensitive to environmental conditions.”

As the climate changes over time, so does the diverse diatom record. For his project, Centeno is investigating an important change in the diatom record ~3.5 million years ago that was immediately followed by a global glaciation event.

“My evidence shows that during these events, when Earth had a similar CO2 concentration to the present and was only 2–3˚C warmer, Site 697 had a lot less ice than is seen today,” he said. “It’s amazing that Antarctica looked so different during a time period that scientists are using as an analog for the changes we might encounter in the coming century.”

Centeno will continue working on this research with his advisor, Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences. After graduating, he plans to continue diatom research in a PhD program.

The Polar Marine Diatom Workshop integrates highly experienced senior-level, mid-career, and early career scientists with graduate and undergraduate students in order to pass on the finer aspects of taxonomy. Participants discussed diatom assemblages from a wide range of environmental settings, including sea ice and marginal ice zones, open ocean waters, upwelling zones, benthic marine habitats and nonmarine communities, all focused on Arctic and Antarctic settings.

“The workshop was amazing. I’ve been to multiple conferences, but there were very few people doing similar research,” he said. “The PMDW gave me an opportunity to collaborate and interact with professors and graduate and undergraduate students from all over the world who do the same exact research I have been doing. This very niche research community was extremely welcoming and accepting, so I’m excited to continue working with diatoms.”

SHOFCO Recipient of Hilton Humanitarian Prize

Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09, center, are directors of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) in Kibera, Kenya. On Aug. 22, SHOFCO received the Hilton Humanitarian Prize by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. SHOFCO’s mission is to build urban promise from urban poverty. (Photo by Audrey Hall)

Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a grassroots nonprofit organization directed by Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09, has been awarded the 2018 Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Selected by a distinguished panel of independent international jurors, SHOFCO will receive $2 million in unrestricted funding, joining 22 other notable organizations that have received the Hilton Humanitarian Prize over the last two decades.

Based in Kibera—one of the largest slums in Africa—SHOFCO was founded by Odede as a teenager in 2004 with 20 cents and a soccer ball. The organization describes its mission as catalyzing large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing community-wide critical services and advocacy platforms, as well as education and leadership development specifically for women and girls. In 2007, Odede met fellow Wesleyan student Posner, who was studying abroad. Together they devised the model that SHOFCO utilizes today.

Kim, Johnson ’18, Rothschild ’19, Coauthor Study on Self-Related Memory Advantage

Kyungmi Kim

Kyungmi Kim, assistant professor of psychology, is the coauthor of a paper published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review on Aug. 8. Jenne Johnson ’18 and Danielle Rothschild ’19 also contributed to the article.

The paper is titled “Merely presenting one’s own name along with target items is insufficient to produce a memory advantage for the items: A critical role of relational processing.”

Many studies have shown that information processed in relation to our “self” vs. someone else has an advantage in memory, termed the self-reference effect (SRE). Early studies of the SRE used tasks in which participants made explicit self-referential (Does the word nice describe you?) or other-referential judgments (Does the word friendly describe Angelina Jolie?) of target items at encoding, highlighting the memory benefit of explicit semantically-based associations between self and target items. However, an important subsequent finding was that even in the absence of any explicit task demand to make self-referential judgments, there is a memory advantage for target items presented simultaneously with self-relevant (e.g., one’s own name) vs. other-relevant (e.g., another person’s name) information at encoding.

In the study, Kim and her colleagues aimed to clarify the processes underlying this “incidental” self-memory advantage assessing two possibilities: an incidental SRE arises due to a mere co-presentation of a target item with self-relevant information or a relational processing between a target item and self-relevant information at encoding.

During encoding, words were presented in two different colors either above or below a name (the participants’ own someone else’s). Participants performed either a relational encoding task (i.e., a location judgment task, “Is the word above or below the name?”) or a non-relational encoding task (i.e., a color judgment task, “Is the word in red or green?”). In the subsequent surprise memory test, the researchers found a self-memory advantage for both items and their associated source features (name, location, and color) under a relational encoding context but not under a non-relational encoding context. These findings add to the current understanding of how the self affects long-term memory by providing clear evidence for a critical role of relational processing between target items and self-relevant information in eliciting a self-memory advantage. By demonstrating the modulation of an incidental self-memory advantage by encoding contexts, these findings further suggest that the impact of self on cognition is more dependent on processing context than previously assumed.

Kim, a cognitive psychologist, is an expert on learning and memory, and the role of self in cognitive and affective processing. The research in her lab aims to identify psychological mechanisms through which the mind subjectively construes the external world.

This fall, she’s teaching courses on Research Methods in Cognition and Advanced Research in Learning and Memory.