Agnieszka Jaroslawska

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    I graduated from the University of York in 2011 with a degree in Psychology before completing my doctoral training at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (University of Cambridge). My PhD research, supervised by Dr Joni Holmes and Prof. Susan Gathercole, explored the cognitive mechanisms of instruction-guided behaviour.

    My area of expertise is cognitive development and I am particularly interested in how children and adults process information and speculate about events in the past and future. I began studying the impact of temporal information and emotional influences on decision-making in 2016 as a Research Fellow at Queen's University Belfast. Here I worked on a project exploring whether the extent to which individuals focus on the future, or their skills in thinking about the future, affect the quality of their decisions. In late 2016, I moved to the University of Edinburgh where I worked as part of an international team investigating the functional organisation and capacity limits of working memory (

    I returned to the School of Psychology, Queen's University Belfast, in November 2018. At present, together with Dr Aidan Feeney (Queen's University Belfast), Prof. Teresa McCormack (Queen's University Belfast), Mr Matthew Johnston (Queen's University Belfast), Dr Sarah Beck (University of Birmingham), and Prof. Christoph Hoerl (University of Warwick), I am working on a project which seeks to develop the first comprehensive psychological theory of relief.

    Research Statement

    The nature and function of relief

    The emotion of relief has been the subject of surprisingly little research, despite having featured in theorizing about phenomena as diverse as self-harming, gambling addiction, and educational motivation. What complicates the study of relief is that the term is used to refer to an emotion that can occur in two quite different situations. We talk about being relieved when an unpleasant episode is over. But we also talk about being relieved upon realizing that an outcome could have been worse. These considerations raise two possibilities. One is that all uses of the term relief, on closer inspection, have core features in common: perhaps there is always an element of being glad that things aren’t worse alongside being glad that an unpleasant experience is over. The alternative is that relief is not a unitary phenomenon. Our aim is to address these issues and develop the first comprehensive psychological theory of relief.

    Research Interests

    Working memory across the adult lifespan

    There are vigorous debates among scientists about what limits our working memory ability, and how those limits change as people move through middle age and into their older years. This project involved the rare occurrence of co-investigators who hold different views, agreeing to work together on a project that directly investigated why their independent research programmes have previously generated different results with different implications for understanding the effects of age on cognition. We produced crucial tests of theoretical predictions and assessed change in working memory performance across the adult lifespan.


    The development of temporal asymmetries in children and adolescents

    As adults, we seem to care more about what is yet to come than what has already happened. Our project was the first to examine the developmental origins of this temporal asymmetry. We investigated when children first seem to value future events more than the past, judge that future events seem closer in time than past events, feel more emotion when considering the future versus the past, and judge that future actions are more deserving of praise or blame than past actions. These studies  provided a new body of evidence about fundamental changes in children's thinking about time.


    The cognitive mechanisms of instruction-guided behaviour

    The ability to perform actions to instruction has remarkable practical relevance for learning across the lifespan. Contexts as varied as classroom education, learning to drive, or using new technologies all require the encoding, retention, and execution of instructed action steps. My PhD research has identified the potential source of action benefits in following instructions and clarified how practical commands are maintained in working memory more generally.



    Dr Aidan Feeney (Queen's University Belfast)

    Prof. Teresa McCormack (Queen's University Belfast)

    Prof. Christoph Hoerl  (University of Warwick)

    Dr Sarah Beck (University of Birmingham)

    Dr Joni Holmes (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge)

    Dr Stephen Rhodes (University of Missouri)



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