What we study

Research in the Control & Adaptive Behavior Lab explores the development, training, and deployment of self-regulatory control in the service of adaptive behavior. We study how this uniquely human ability affects how we learn, problem solve, navigate the physical and social world, and make decisions, especially under conditions of distraction, emotional arousal, and social influence.

Research in the lab contributes to basic foundational science, but also considers how the science can be translated to applied and real-world contexts.

We use a convergent methodologies approach that features traditional behavioral experimentation, longitudinal and training studies, and functional and structural brain imaging using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).th

To learn more, click on one of the topics below

Mechanisms of Control

The mental machinery supporting adaptive control over behavior allows us to flexibly select goal-appropriate behaviors while inhibiting interference from sources of response competition and distraction. Our work to delineate the basic processes that enable this flexible and goal-directed behavior has focused on the relationship between working memory and cognitive control, and the involvement of these capacities in the broader landscape of higher-order cognition

Samper, J, Morrison, A, & Chein, JM. (in press). Doubts about the role of rehearsal in the irrelevant speech effect. Experimental Psychology.

Morrison, A.M., Rosenbaum, G.R., Fair, D.A., & Chein, J.M. (2016). Variation in Strategy Use Across Measures of Verbal Working Memory. Memory & Cognition, 44, 922-936.

Morrison, A., Conway, A., & Chein, J. (2014).  Primacy and Recency Effects as Indices of the Focus of Attention. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 24(8), 6. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00006

Development of Control

As people mature from pre-adolescence into adulthood the brain systems that support control undergo important changes. These changes result in improvements in the ability to behave in a deliberative, goal-directed manner. Our lab investigates how the asynchronous development of cognitive control and affective processing impacts the mental calculus of decision making, with a particular focus on how psychosocial context affects the interaction between these systems.

Rosenbaum, G., Venkatraman, V., Steinberg, L., Chein, J. (August, 2021). Do adolescents always take more risks than adults? A within-subjects developmental study of context effects on decision making and processing. PLOS One.

Icenogle, G., Steinberg, L., Duell, N., Chein, J. et al. (2019). Adolescents’ Cognitive Capacity Reaches Adult Levels Prior to Their Psychosocial Maturity: Evidence for a “Maturity Gap” in a Multinational Sample. Law & Human Behavior. 43(1), 69 – 85.

Smith, A., Rosenbaum, G., Botdorf, M., Steinberg, L., & Chein, J. (2018). Peers Influence Adolescent Reward Processing, But Not Response Inhibition. Cognitive Affective Behavioral Neuroscience, 18(2), 284-295. DOI 10.3758/s13415-018-0569-5

Technology and Control

With the increasing presence of digital media technologies like smartphones and social media platforms in our lives, there has been a growing concern on how it may impact various cognitive abilities and their development. Across a number of projects, we are exploring how interactions with digital technology might relate to age and individual differences in psychological and brain functioning

Wilmer, H.H., Hampton, W., Olino, T., Olson, I., & Chein, J.M. (2019) Wired to be connected? Links Between Mobile Technology Engagement, Intertemporal Preference, and Frontostriatal White Matter Connectivity. Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience, 14(4), 367-379.

Wilmer, HH, Sherman, LE, & Chein, JM. (2017). Smartphones and Cognition: A review of research exploring the links between mobile technology habits and cognitive functioning. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 605. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00605

Blacker, K., Curby, K., Klobusicky, E., & Chein, J. (2014). The Effects of Action Video Game Training on Visual Working Memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40(5),1992-2004. doi: 10.1037/a0037556

Enhancement of Control

An exciting new area of research concerns the ability to improve general cognitive functioning by increasing the capacity of working memory and the ability to control the focus of one’s attention. While historical research suggests that people tend to improve only on the very specific tasks that they practice, there is mounting evidence that repeated working memory and attention control “workouts” can produce more far reaching, and generalizable, gains. In the lab we have developed novel, theory-driven, techniques for training these central cognitive faculties, and investigated the efficacy and scope of generalization from different forms of training.

Green, CS, Bavelier, D, Kramer, AF, Vinogradov, S, Ansorge,, U, Ball,, KK, Bingel,, U, Chein, JM, et al. (2019). Improving Methodological Standards in Behavioral Interventions for Cognitive Enhancement. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. 3(1), 2-29.  DOI: 10.1007/s4146

Rosenbaum, G., Botdorf, MA., Steinberg, L., & Chein, JM. (2017). Working Memory Training in Adolescents Decreases Laboratory Risk Taking in the Presence of Peers. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 1(4), 513-535.

Morrison, A.B. & Chein, J.M.(2011). Does working memory training work? The promise and challenges of enhancing cognition by training working memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18(1), 46-60.