Paul Verhaeghen

Paul Verhaeghen

General Information


Professor of Psychology

Graduate Coordinator

Research Areas

Cognition and Brain Science
Cognitive Aging


Ph.D. (1994) Psychology
University of Leuven, Belgium

J S J S Coon building 126
Lab Webpage


Historically, most of the work in my lab has centered around cognitive aging: What happens to people's minds as they grow older? Much of my meta-analytic work on boils down to the question of the dimensionality of cognitive aging: Does it all go together when it goes? Our current experimental work on aging focuses on cognitive control. Cognitive control concerns dealing with complex tasks in a complex environment, which includes: (a) making sure that only the appropriate stimuli from the environment enter into consciousness; (strong) continuously updating the content of working memory ; (c) switching between different tasks; (d) coordinating the different actions that need to be performed; and (e) switching back and forth between relevant stimuli. Some of these aspects seem to be more susceptible to aging than others (strong, c, and d); some have different effects of speed and accuracy (e).

We are also conducting research in working memory per se. We are very interested in working memory dynamics. How (or even when) do people search working memory? Can we distinguish different subsystems in working memory depending on the retrieval dynamics? Are the memory processes in working memory cognitive primitives, or are they subsumed under known mechanisms of attentional control?

A third research interest is creativity, more specifically the link between creativity, mood disorder, and different types of rumination (or, as we like to think of it, mental play).


  • Association for Psychological Science (Fellow)

Selected publications

  • Verhaeghen, P., & Salthouse, T. A. (1997). Meta-analyses of age-cognition relations in adulthood: Estimates of linear and non-linear age effects and structural models. Psychological Bulletin, 122, 231-249.
  • Verhaeghen, P., & Cerella, J. (2002). Aging, executive control, and attention: A review of meta-analyses. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 26, 849-857.
  • Verhaeghen, P., Cerella, J, & Basak, C. (2004). A working memory workout: How to change to size of the focus of attention from one to four in ten hours or less. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30, 1322-1337.
  • Verhaeghen, P., & Basak, C. (2005). Aging and switching of the focus of attention in working memory: Results from a modified N-Back task. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology (A), 58, 134-154.
  • Bopp, K. L., & Verhaeghen, P. (2005). Aging and verbal memory span: A meta-analysis. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 60B, 223-233.
  • Verhaeghen, P., Joormann, J., & Khan, R. (2005). Why we sing the blues: The relation between self-reflective rumination, mood, and creativity. Emotion, 5, 226-232.
  • Verhaeghen, P., Cerella, J, & Basak, C. (2006). Aging, task complexity, and efficiency modes: The influence of working memory involvement on age differences in response times for verbal and visuospatial tasks. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 13, 254-280.
  • Zhang, Y., & Verhaeghen, P. (2009). Glimpses of a one-speed mind: Focus-switching and search for verbal and visual, and easy and difficult items in working memory. Acta Psychologica, 131, 235-244.