About Me

Hello! I’m Tess, a PhD student in the LAND lab. I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and completed my undergraduate degree in Cognitive Systems and Linguistics at the University of British Columbia. I also spent some time working at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the Max Plank Institute for Psycholinguistics, in the Netherlands. I’m interested in how language learning mechanisms operate, their development over time, and how that contributes to differences in language learning abilities between adults and children. In my free time I like to cook, knit, and spend time outside… either running, backpacking, skiing, or canoeing!

Research Interests

Broadly, I am interested in understanding how people, especially children, turn all the of information present in their world into useable information they have learned from and stored in their memory. Much of my work has focused on Statistical Learning, or our brains ability to pick up on patterns in the world around us. Some questions I think about are…

How does the developing brain carry out statistical learning? While we are beginning to understand how the adult brain learns about patterns in the world, we know very little about how this is supported by the developing brain. Moreover, many of the neural systems involved in adult statistical learning develop throughout childhood. Some of my work investigates how this changes what neural systems underlie learning at different ages, and how this changes what people learn across development.

How does the development of other cognitive mechanisms impact statistical learning? It is becoming increasingly clear that statistical learning is linked to things like attention and other memory processes that we know develop with age. Another branch of my work tries to understand how the development of attention impacts statistical learning, both because we may be more or less able to control what we attend to at different ages, and because what we automatically attend to might change with age.



May 1

Superior learning in synesthetes: Consistent grapheme-color associations facilitate statistical learning

Forest, T. A.*, Lichtenfeld, A.*, Alvarez, B., & Finn, A.S. (2019). Cognition, 186 (pp. 72-81).

In synesthesia activation in one sensory domain, such as smell or sound, triggers an involuntary and unusual secondary sensory or cognitive experience. In the present study, we ask whether the added sensory experience of synesthesia can aid statistical learning—the ability to track environmental regularities in order to segment continuous information. To investigate this ... [Read More]
July 25

Attention Selectively Boosts Learning of Statistical Structure

Forest, T. A. & Finn, A.S. (2018). Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 1674-1680). Madison, WI: Cognitive Science Society.

While statistical learning (SL) has long been described as a learning mechanism that operates automatically across ages and modalities, there are a growing number of ... [Read More]
May 10

Planning to speak in L1 and L2

Konopka, A. E., Meyer, A., & Forest, T. A. (2018). Cognitive psychology, 102, 72-104.

The leading theories of sentence planning - Hierarchical Incrementality and Linear Incrementality - differ in their assumptions about the coordination of processes that map preverbal information onto language... [Read More]
September 9

The Impact of Attention on People’s Ability to Learn Two Statistical Patterns Simultaneously

Forest, T. A. (2017). The Impact of Attention on People's Ability to Learn Two Statistical Patterns Simultaneously (Masters Thesis).

While statistical learning has long been described as a learning mechanism that operates automatically across ages and modalities, there are a growing number of cases in which automatic learning is not observed, and in which attention seems to impact learning... [Read More]

Other Involvements

 Academic Service

  • President of the Psychology Graduate Student Association, Sep. 2018- Present
  • Graduate-Led Academic Speaker Series (GLASS) Coordinator for the Psychology Graduate Student Association, Sep. 2017- Present
  • Orientation Coordinator for all incoming graduate students to the University of Toronto Tri-Campus Psychology Program, Sep. 2016-Present
  • Recruitment Coordinator for all Cognitive Area Recruits’ schedules for recruitment weekend, Jan. 2017 and Jan. 2018.
  • MA Representative to the Psychology Graduate Student Association, Sep. 2016-Aug. 2017.

Additional Research Positions