Assistant Professor of Psychology
Adam Putnam teaches courses in Introductory Psychology, Memory and Cognition, and Research Methods and Statistics. Dr. Putnam’s research explores human memory with a focus on questions that have real world applications, such as how memory science can be used to improve education, how false memories are formed, and how groups of people form memories that shape their group’s identity.
Dr. Putnam’s interests in psychology (and the liberal arts!) began at Earlham College, a small school in Indiana. After graduating, Dr. Putnam worked for two years as Assistant to the President at Earlham, and then went to Washington University in St. Louis where he conducted research on human learning and memory. After earning his PhD, Dr. Putnam spent three years as a visiting professor at Carleton College and joined the Furman faculty in 2018.
Dr. Putnam has always wanted to teach at a liberal arts school, and Furman is a perfect fit: a place where the students form close relationships with the faculty, and where classes and research connect to other disciplines and the real world. Dr. Putnam is looking forward to working with Furman students in the classroom and doing research with them on how people learn and remember.
When he isn't teaching or in the lab, Adam is probably working out, doing yoga, or spending time with his wife, Sara. Adam is also an accomplished magician -- during graduate school he worked as a professional magician and mind-reader (he occasionally does magic in class).
- Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis
- M.A., Washington University in St. Louis
- B.A., Earlham College
I study human learning and memory with specific projects often drawing inspiration from real world problems. How should students study for a test? How do voters remember a flip-flopping politician's positions? How does someone's culture affect the way they remember a shared event? For all of these questions I use behavioral experiments (both in the lab and online) to explore the encoding and retrieval processes involved in human memory.
Improving Classroom Education
How should students study for an upcoming test? One interest of mine is examining how principles of cognitive psychology can be used to improve education. Oftentimes these principles are counter-intuitive; for example, taking practice tests can often lead to more learning than re-reading lecture notes. Other strategies that can enhance classroom learning include using mnemonic techniques, spacing study sessions apart in time, and teaching students to be more aware of what they know and what they don't know about their own learning (metacognition). In recent research Carleton students and I have been examining how in-text citations can affect the degree to which people believe trivia claims.
Noticing and Remembering Change
When politicians flip-flop does it make it more difficult for people to remember the politician's current position? A major theory in cognitive psychology, known as interference theory, would say yes. However, recent research suggests that when people notice a change and later remember it, it actually enhances their memory. I have explored the mechanisms of noticing and remembering change both in politics (my dissertation) and in the formation of false memories.
How do people from different cultures remember their past? Collective memories have been explored in many fields in the past, but recently psychologists have begun experimenting with different ways to measure collective memory in a more quantitative fashion. For example, in one current project we examine ego-centric biases in the way that people remember history.
- Putnam, A. L., *Ross, M. Q., *Soter, L. K., Roediger, H. L., (2018). Collective narcissism: Americans exaggerate the role of their home state in appraising U.S. history. Psychological Science.
- Zaromb, F. M., Liu, J. H., Páez, D., Hanke, K., Putnam, A. L., Roediger, H. L. (2018). We made history: Citizens of 35 countries overestimate their nation’s role in world history. Journal of Applied Research in Memory & Cognition.
- Putnam, A. L., & Roediger, H. L. (2018). Education and memory: Seven ways the science of memory can improve classroom learning. In J. T. Wixted (Ed.), The Stevens' Handbook of Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience. New York: Wiley.
- Tauber, S. K., Witherby, A. E., Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Putnam, A. L., & Roediger, H. L. (2018). Does covert retrieval benefit learning of key term definitions? Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 7, 106-115.
- Putnam, A. L., & *Phelps, R. J. (2017). The citation effect: In-text citations moderately increase belief in trivia claims. Acta Psychologica, 179, 114-123.
- Putnam, A. L., Sungkhassettee, V., & Roediger, H. L. (2017). When misinformation improves memory: The effects of recollecting change. Psychological Science, 28, 36-46.
- Putnam, A. L., Sungkhassettee, V., & Roediger, H. L. (2016). Optimizing learning in college: Tips from cognitive psychology. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11, 652-660.
- Putnam, A. L., Nestojko, J. F., & Roediger, H. L. (2016). Improving student learning: Two strategies to make it stick. In J. C. Horvath, J. Lodge, & J. A. C. Hattie (Eds.), From the laboratory to the classroom: Translating the science of learning for teachers (pp. 94-121). Oxford, U.K.: Routledge.
- Putnam, A. L. (2015). Mnemonics in education: Current research and applications. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 1, 130-139
- Putnam, A. L., Wahlheim, C. N., & Jacoby, L. L. (2014). Memory for flip-flopping: Detection and recollection of political contradictions. Memory and Cognition, 42 , 1198-1210. doi: 10.3758/s13421-014-0419-9
- Putnam, A. L., Ozubko, J. D., MacLeod, C. M., & Roediger, H. L. (2014). The production effect in paired associate learning. Memory and Cognition, 42 , 409-420. doi: 10.3758/s13421- 013-0374-x
- Putnam, A. L., & Roediger, H. L. (2013). Does response mode affect amount recalled or the magnitude of the testing effect? Memory and Cognition, 41 , 36–48. doi:10.3758/s13421- 012-0245-x
- Roediger, H. L., Putnam, A. L., & Smith, M. A. (2011). Ten benefits of testing and their applications to educational practice. In J. Mestre & B. Ross (Eds.), Psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in theory and research (pp. 1-36). Oxford: Elsevier.
- Peshkam, A., Mensink, M. C., Putnam, A. L., & Rapp, D. N. (2011). Warning readers to avoid irrelevant information: When being vague might be valuable. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 36, 219–231. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2010.10.006.