Reflections on meeting Art Wingfield - Cindy Lahar

When I applied to graduate school, my application process was probably similar to many others at the time.  First, apply to schools in cool locations that are really far away from home such as Northern California, then follow up by pouring through a favorite textbook from undergraduate classes (mine was cognitive psychology) and look for the most interesting studies.  I had a pamphlet from the Brandeis Psychology department and saw that the researcher that interested me most was a cognitive psychologist there—right near my hometown—which was a totally uncool location for someone like me who grew up 15 miles down the road and wanted to “go away”.  But, I did apply to Brandeis and a month later I received a phone call from Brandeis inviting me to come in for an interview for graduate study. 

The phone call was from Art Wingfield and I went to Brandeis to meet with him on a Spring day in 1985.  He struck me immediately as a kind and gentle soul, one who cared deeply about learning, exploring, and knowing.  He was genuinely interested in my undergraduate research I completed with Denise Park that looked at memory for pictures and words in young and older adults.  He asked me all about this research and I was struck by how he brought up so many relevant theories and ideas, and he described many research studies that related and that could be done to follow up and probe further into the theories we were discussing.  He just knew so much!

We had a long conversation about human memory and aging that was just the beginning of years of conversations ahead.  At that time, Art was interested in starting new research projects examining cognitive differences in young and old adults, and I was so intrigued by understanding human memory and so impressed with this warmhearted and knowledgeable man I met on that spring day. 

After that meeting with Art, I went home hoping I would receive an offer of admission.  It didn’t matter that I might end up in graduate school so close to my hometown, and I had lost all interest in working on mental imagery with Steven Kosslyn – that researcher whose name remained in the outdated Brandeis Psychology department pamphlet I had in hand.  I’ve never met Steve Kosslyn, but if I ever do, I will thank him profusely for leading me to apply to Brandeis, and also thank him for leaving Brandeis and giving me the gift of the best supervisor and mentor I could have ever hoped for.