Many of us have (and expect from others) near-constant access to information and communication technologies. It’s true that many of us have several different options to strategically engage with technology at any moment to meet the goals of that moment. What my research demonstrates is that there are many processes and variables that manifest from technology that will shape the actions media users take to meet their goals. New media are not supplanting human memory, they are diversifying memory. This poses new coordination demands on the media user. In other words, there is certain information we have to know about how technology affects us to make strategic decisions about when to use that technology. A goal of my research is to understand how media users can make more strategic decisions in service of their memory goals. Here are some recent papers that demonstrate the affect technology-enabled processes have on our memory and decisions:

  • Hamilton, K.A.*, Siler, J.*, & Benjamin, A.S. (2023). Using the internet “raises the bar” for precision in self-produced question answering. Applied Cognitive Psychology.
  • Siler, J.*, Hamilton, K.A.*, & Benjamin, A.S. (2022). Did you look that up? How retrieving from smartphones affects memory for source. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 36(4), 738-747.

A media user can take advantage of the strategies and techniques made possible by technology as long as they can accurately monitor the state of their knowledge and exercise careful control over the many digital and non-digital strategies available to them. Another (interrelated) area of my research seeks to identify aspects of media technology that influence the ability to make accurate judgments about what we know and what we don’t know (i.e., metacognition). Many characteristics of media technology—speed of access (Hamilton & Qi, under review), anthropomorphic cues (Hamilton, Ward, & Yao, under review), degree of organization (Hamilton, McIntyre, & Hertel, 2016), familiarity and ownership (Hamilton & Yao, 2018)—impair the ability to make accurate metacognitive judgments. My existing research illuminates technological factors that lead to faulty metacognitive monitoring and maladaptive memory decisions. Here are a few recent examples:

  • Hamilton, K. A., Ward, A. F., & Yao, M. Z. Mind or Machine? Exploring the role of anthropomorphism on illusions of knowledge from technology use.
  • Hamilton, K. A. & Qi, L. Search fluency mistaken for understanding: Ease of information retrieval from the internet inflates internal knowledge confidence

Much of my curiosity stems from understanding unique possibilities for action through emerging media that pose new consequences for the ability to make sound decisions. A third cornerstone of my work examines the effects of technological elements on decision making in various applied domains, such as advertising and cyber-security. One project, for example, brings attention to self-endorsement— a novel advertising strategy that harnesses the features of new media to depict a consumer themselves as the endorser of a brand (Hamilton, Lee, Chung, Liu, & Duff, 2020). Another project investigates how a person’s learning process is influence when they believe they are under surveillance, which is motivated by applications in cyber security and targeted advertising. My goal in this area of research is to demonstrate novel media practices that pose new challenges for media users, which will require those users to develop more sophisticated tools for assessing their decisions about when and how to use technology to accomplish their goals.

  • Hamilton, K.A., Lee, S., Chung, U., Liu, W., & Duff, B.L. (2020). Putting the “me” in endorsement: Understanding and conceptualizing dimensions of self-endorsement using intelligent personal assistants. New Media & Society, 23(6), 1506-1526.

Many features embedded within information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as GPS, Google Drive, and ChatGPT are employed regularly to accomplish our goals. Much of what we think of as “memory” in a digital environment is actually a product of an integrative system of internal (i.e., in the “brain”) and external (i.e., outside the “brain”) structures and processes that are selected to meet the demands of a particular cognitive task. I continue to be curious in research that takes this adaptive perspective of human memory and cognition to understand the successes and failures of memory in an increasingly digital world. For a brief commentary that I wrote (in collaboration with Aaron Benjamin) as background to this perspective, check this out:

  •  Hamilton, K.A., & Benjamin, A.S. (2019). The human-machine extended organism: New roles and responsibilities of human cognition in a digital ecology. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 8, 40-45.