Hi there! I'm a curious human, researcher, and educator committed to answering interesting questions, building community, and designing thoughtfully. I earned my PhD in cognitive psychology from Duke University in 2021.
I was advised by Elizabeth Marsh. I also collaborate with Felipe De Brigard and Bridgette Martin Hard. My primary research questions are:
“For surely it is a magical thing for a handful of words, artfully arranged, to stop time. To conjure a place, a person, a situation, in all its specificity and dimensions. To affect us and alter us, as profoundly as real people and things do.”
The landscape of our memories is constructed from more than things that really happened. We also imagine worlds that never existed and people we've never met. I am fascinated by how and why we consume, remember, and share works of narrative fiction (such as books, movies, and TV shows). My work explores the ways that memories of fiction can be considered part of the autobiographical record.
How do we decide what to believe and remember? We consider novel forces that shape belief, including asymmetries in believing and unbelieving, the impermanance of qualifying language, and the weak contributions of reasons in changing people's minds. We also summarize findings from cognitive science, such as the theme that we are easily swayed by cognitive shortcuts and prior beliefs, for interdisciplinary audiences.
How can graphs mislead? We have largely ignored the potential contributions of graphs in generating and propagating misinformation. I am excited to say our research on this topic has only just begun. So far, we've focused on the effect of vertical axis truncation in bar graphs.
This project was spearheaded by Camila Vargas Restrepo when she was an undergraduate honors student in the Marsh Memory lab.
The business of learning and remembering is central to classrooms. Thus, one line of my work explores how the science of learning can be adapted and shared to students and teachers. I also work with Bridgette Martin Hard to study the scholarship of teaching and learning, merging excellent pedagogy with research on how best to teach and support students.
“Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferals of information.”
I came to graduate school by way of being an educator. My teaching style is intentional, reflective, innovative, and joyful. I am experienced in developing student-centered curriculum differentiated for a wide range of skills, and centering classroom instruction on the lived realities of students. I am always seeking ways to grow. My goal in teaching is always to help students reveal their own potential to themselves.
I won the Duke University's Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2020.
2012 - 2015
I taught Anatomy & Physiology and Biology courses, developing and executing innovative, inquiry-based curricula. View student feedback from 2015.
I developed and led an intensive (7 hours a day for 3 weeks), college-level cognitive psychology course for gifted youth grades 7 - 12. Students wrote extensively, researched and debated linguistic relativism, and wrote & illustrated a book of colloquially answered cognitive neuroscience "What if?" questions. View student feedback.
2015 - 2017
I served as a TA for Ruth Day (Psy102 Cognitive Psychology) and Mark Leary (Psy104 Personality Psychology).
2018 - 2019
I voluntered to coordinate two semesters of Introduction to Psychology (Psy101), along with Paula Yust. This included mentorship of 14 undergraduate teaching fellows (including observations and written feedback), developing formative and summative assessments, and managing communication with students.
I designed and taught Cognitive Psychology (Psy242). This course contained a lab component and enrolled 24 students. Students wrote science communication pieces. View student perceptions of teaching: full report, with comparative info.
“Where we are born into privilege, we are charged with dismantling any myth of supremacy. Where we are born into struggle, we are charged with claiming our dignity, joy and liberation.”
Mentorship is one of the most important practices of science and a skill I take pride in cultivating. My goals in mentoring students and young researchers is to help them clarify and realize their own goals through rigor- and curiosity-driven engagement with the scientific process. One of my great joys is also mentoring and coaching others in teaching and pedagogy.
I believe that great mentors are not born, but made. During graduate school, I took concrete steps to help make excellent mentoring practices more accessible to all. This included, spearheading the creation of the department's first Mentoring Handbook.
In April 2019, I co-developed and co-led four, two-hour sessions focused on the fundamental principles of a good mentoring relationship as part of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) ongoing Inclusion and Power Dynamics series. The workshops were planned and led in collaboration with Kendra Seaman, a post-doc at the time who is now faculty at UT Dallas.
How are you? I'm so happy you dropped by. I would love to hear from you. You can send me an email at my personal address: brendaya12 at gmail.com. Some reasons you might want to contact me include:
It would be my pleasure to write you a letter of recommendation. Please keep in mind that I won't have very recent knowledge of your academic or personal growth. If you still feel that a letter from me might help you succeed, please provide the following: