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CC professor wins Fulbright, will research ´self-defining´ memories in England

June 18, 2003
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Jefferson Singer, professor of psychology

Jefferson Singer, professor of psychology

Why is it we can recall without effort the day we first fell in love? Why is it so easy to remember the pain of losing a sibling?

A Connecticut College professor will travel to England on a Fulbright Scholarship this fall to work with one of the world´s most prominent memory researchers to study the mind´s retrieval of emotionally significant memories.

Jefferson Singer, professor of psychology, a resident of Chester, is one of just six faculty members from American colleges and universities to receive a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Award to conduct research in the United Kingdom. Of approximately 800 Fulbright teaching and research awards given annually, only 160 are purely for research. Singer is the 15th member of the Connecticut College faculty in the last decade to win a Fulbright.

Singer will travel to the University of Durham in England, where he will work with Martin Conway, who has been using electrical recordings of the brain to determine which parts of it are activated when we try to remember events from our past. His research has been limited to rather simple and not very emotional memories.

Enter Singer, who for the past two decades has been studying the most personal and emotionally significant memories of individuals´ lives, a type of memory that he calls "self-defining."

"These memories are vivid, emotional and reflective of important conflicts or enduring themes in individuals´ lives," Singer said. The goal of this collaboration is to apply Conway´s electrical recording methods to Singer´s self-defining memories.

"It is possible that memories that are very relevant and important to a person´s self-concept will engage more areas of the brain than more mundane memories," Singer said, "and that they will engage both the pre-frontal cortex associated with reasoning and abstraction and parts of the limbic system associated with strong emotion."

Singer will leave for England in August and will return in December.

Singer is a former director of the College´s Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, an interdisciplinary center focused on the development of active citizenship and leadership. He is the author of two books, The Remembered Self: Emotion and Memory in Personality (with Peter Salovey, NY: The Free Press) and Message in a Bottle: Stories of Men and Addiction (NY: The Free Press), and the co-editor of a third, At Play in the Fields of Consciousness: Essays in Honor of Jerome L. Singer (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum; again with Peter Salovey).

The author of more than 40 articles, chapters and book reviews in the fields of personality, autobiographical memory and clinical psychology, Singer serves as an associate editor for the journals Contemporary Psychology and Journal of Personality, and is on the editorial board of Review of General Psychology. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association.

For media inquiries, please contact:
Amy Martin, 860-439-2526, or Deborah MacDonnell (860) 439-2504,