Speaker: Michael Zarate, Professor, Department of Psychology, 
University of Texas at El Paso

Date: Thursday, April 7, 2016
Time: 1:30 PM
Place: Procrastinator Theater, Strand Union Building

Title: Time, Sleep and New Directions in Memory Consolidation and Social Perception

Sponsoring departmentPsychology


Michael Zarate studies memory consolidation and social perception, particularly the effects of time and sleep on social memory. Over time, newly learned information becomes integrated with existing memory structures. Once integrated, that information is then more readily accessible for non-conscious use and is more easily generalized to related targets. Integration, accessibility and generalization are the three components of memory consolidation and social perception. In addition to those three constructs, Dr. Zarate's research also shows that negative information is more readily consolidated, especially if that information concerns an outgroup member. Based on this finding, he is now testing how prejudice develops over time and how those prejudiced thoughts are acted upon.

About the speaker:

Michael Zarate earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara and his Ph.D. in social psychology from Purdue University. Zarate and the students working in his lab are developing the concept of "cultural inertia." Cultural inertia is defined as the desire to avoid cultural change or a change in trajectories, or conversely, the desire to continue cultural change once movement or change is already occurring. Cultural inertia describes why majority groups often desire assimilation type models of cultural interaction, and why minority groups often espouse more multicultural models of cultural interaction. Zarate's research also focuses on the social cognitive processes that underlie person and group perception. Along with students working in his lab, he is testing how memory consolidation processes influence the probability of applying stereotypes to others. The basic idea is that individuating information takes time to be reflected in speeded and implicit memory tests. This research suggests that models and research methods of social perception need to change in fundamental ways. All of these research programs have direct applications to intergroup relations along the U.S.-Mexico border.