In an era in which many people can live well into their eighties or nineties, articulating pathways to a quality life becomes more critical than ever before. Our research contributes to this common goal: it identifies the affective, cognitive, and sociocultural processes that shape meaningful lives.

At a high level, our research aims to answer three broad questions: (1) What factors contribute to meaningful lives? (2) How do individual life experiences, particularly those that are personally significant and challenging, shape the pursuit of meaning across the adult life span in diverse contexts? (3) What emotional and cognitive gains and losses might be involved in the process of striving for meaningfulness?

We address these questions from a functional approach to autobiographical memory and consider how developmental changes in motivation may be at play. We examine cognitive aging within the affective and sociocultural contexts. As we study the transitions and changes that people encounter across the life span and seek to articulate the role that episodic past and future thinking may contribute to their adaptation and development, the name of an ancient god, Janus, is borrowed.   

Our most recent studies examine 1) use of VR for recollection of the personal past and simulation of future life events in young and older adults including cognitively impaired individuals, 2) NLP approaches to autobiographical memory. Our research also investigates engaged lifestyles and intergenerational connectivity.

See also Articulating utilities of mental time travel may help promote human flourishment, an idea proposed by Dr. Liao and featured by the Templeton World Charity Foundation.

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