image of grad student Susan Benear

Susan Benear is a doctoral student in the Cognition & Neuroscience program, with a concentration in Quantitative Methods. She works jointly with Dr. Ingrid Olson and Dr. Nora Newcombe on memory development and its neural correlates in early childhood. Her dissertation research explores how children understand and remember naturalistic events, and how their brains represent these events as they unfold.  

Last year, Susan received a small grant from the American Psychological Association to support her dissertation research, which is capitalizing on an existing brain imaging (MRI) dataset from forty children, as well as collecting new behavioral data from children and adults. The goal is to compare how children and adults delineate event boundaries while watching a television show, and how well they remember these events after watching. Susan also plans to map the behaviorally delineated boundaries onto the imaging dataset, for which children watched the same television show. She hopes to determine whether brain activation patterns while watching a given event in the show are more like one another than those drawn from across event boundaries. In the future, Susan would like to examine how reward influences children's propensity for generalizing vs. recalling specific details of episodes. Understanding how children learn from the world around them and remembering what they experience has profound implications for education policy that impacts children's cognitive development and academic achievement. 

Prior to arriving at Temple, Susan earned a double B.A. in Psychology & Public Relations from Penn State in 2015. She expects to graduate with her Ph.D. in Cognition & Neuroscience in August 2022. This fall, Susan will begin a postdoctoral fellowship at NYU working with Dr. Catherine Hartley. She will examine the role of reward and cognitive control in memory processes across development. Upon completion her postdoc, Susan aspires to have her own academic lab, work for the government, or for a non-profit agency understanding how children learn.