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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Psychology


George Potts

Areas of expertise/Research interests

  • Constructive processes in memory and perception
  • Constructive processes in text comprehension
  • Perception and memory without awareness

Current research and projects

Examining whether the processes involved in unconscious (implicit) memory and perception are qualitatively different than the processes involved in conscious (explicit) memory and perception.

Professional work synopsis

My area of specialization is cognitive psychology, with special interest in the topics of perception without awareness, memory, and text comprehension. My research examines how people perceive, remember, and use the vast amount of information that they experience each day. In some cases they are aware of this information, in other cases this information is perceived and stored without conscious awareness. I would like to discover how this information is stored in the mind, and how this information affects behavior both consciously and unconsciously.

People tend to assume that their perceptions and memories are accurate, but we now know that this is often not the case. New information is actively interpreted in the context of a person's existing world knowledge. This interaction of old and new information can enable people to draw inferences that could not be drawn from either source alone. But it can also lead to fascinating inaccuracies and distortions in perception and memory. My research is designed to discover more about the nature of these processes and to help understand how these processes differ as a function of whether they are conscious or unconscious.

These issues have many important practical implications. For example, people are very concerned about the possibility that they are being influenced by subliminal messages. Is this concern justified? Similarly, our judicial system puts considerable trust in the testimony of eyewitnesses. In view of the well-documented distortions in perception and memory, is this trust justified? Our research is designed to help answer questions such as these.


  • PhD, Indiana University, 1971
  • MA, Indiana University, 1970
  • BA, Hamline University, 1967

Selected Publications

  • Potts, G.R., Peterson, S.B., St. John, M.F., & Kirson, D. (1990). "Independent access to world knowledge and newly learned facts." In A.C. Graesser & G.H. Bower (Eds.), The psychology of learning and motivation. Academic Press, p. 213-232.
  • Potts, G.R., St. John, M.F., & Kirson, D. (1989). "Incorporating new information into existing world knowledge." Cognitive Psychology, 303-333.
  • Potts, G.R., Keenan, J.M., & Golding, J.M. (1988). "Assessing the occurrence of elaborative inferences: Lexical decision versus naming." Journal of Memory and Language, 27, 399-415.
  • Potts, G.R., & Peterson, S.B. (1985). "Incorporation versus compartmentalization in memory for discourse." Journal of Memory and Language, 24, 107-118.