Peter Graf

Department of Psychology
Memory & Cognition Laboratory

Phone: 604 822-2140

Web pages: Lab webpage



  • Ph.D, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario (1981)
  • BSc., University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario (1977)


  • Episodic memory
  • Usability of handheld communication
  • Personhood and cognition

Research Interests

My research is focused on the following broad topics:

  • Memory: The nature of episodic prospective memory and its relation with episodic retrospective memory

  • Usability: The usability of handheld communication and computing devices

  • Personhood: The relationship between personhood and cognition in old age and dementia

Memory Work: Prospective memory is the ability to formulate intentions, plans and promises and to execute them in the appropriate context. In our recent and ongoing empirical work we are asking the following kinds of questions: What mind/brain processes/structures are engaged for episodic prospective memory task performance? What mind/brain processes/structures differentiate between episodic prospective memory task performance and explicit episodic retrospective memory task performance? What mind/brain processes/structures underlie adult lifespan changes in the performance of episodic pro- and retro-spective memory tasks? What are the implications of failures in episodic pro- and retro-spective memory?

Usability Work: The overall goal of our usability research is to identify barriers to access -- usability problems, as well as the factors that cause them, that are experienced by normal healthy elderly users or potential users of handheld communications and computing devices, such as cell phones and personal digital assistants. We view this work and a more complete understanding of usability problems and of their causes as a critical first step toward creating devices that are better adapted to the abilities and needs of the elderly, and toward eliminating the digital divide so that the benefits of the information society can be more equitably distributed. Our work in this domain is part of the Aphasia project, a UBC based undertaking focused on developing handheld computer based aids and assistive devices (e.g., an appointment calendar, an electronic cookbook) primarily for individuals with aphasia.

Personhood Work:  One's personhood is socially constructed and maintained. Personhood is often assumed to be linked with consciousness, consciousness of the self, rationality, intentionality, reciprocity, and the ability to communicate. By these assumptions, the personhood of the individual with dementia necessarily becomes questionable. Dementia-associated cognitive change causes a discontinuity between past, present, and future, and an afflicted individual is perceived as increasingly incapable of rational, intentional behavior and thought, and thus is assumed to loose his/her personhood. With funding from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the UBC-based Center for Research on Personhood and Dementia co-ordinates, facilitates and integrates transdisciplinary research to examine the potential of a personhood approach to dementia care practices in BC. The Memory and Cognition Lab participates in this endeavor primarily by investigating the link between personhood and higher level attention and cognitive functions in late adulthood and in persons with dementia.

Selected Publications

Graf, P. (2005). Prospective memory retrieval revisited. In N. Ohta, C. M. MacLeod & B. Uttl (Eds.), Dynamic cognitive processes(pp. 305-332).Tokyo: Springer.

Peters, K. R., Graf, P., Hayden, S. & Feldman, H. (2004, in press). Neuropsychological Subgroups of Cognitively-Impaired-Not-Demented (CIND) Individuals: Delineation, Reliability, and Predictive Validity. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology (acceptedDecember 3, 2003).

Peters, K. R., Graf, P., Hayden, S. & Feldman, H. (2004). Neuropsychological Characterization of Cognitively-Impaired-Not-Demented (CIND) Individuals: Clinical Comparison Data. The Clinical Neuropsychologist18, 208-228.

Butterfield, N. N., Graf, P., MacLeod, B. A., Reis, C. R. & Zis, A. P. (2004). Propofol reduces cognitive impairment after electroconvulsive therapy. The Journal of ECT20, 3-9.

Meier, B., Morger, V. & Graf, P. (2003). Competition between automatic and controlled processes.  Consciousness and Cognition,12, 309-319.

Woodward, T. S., Meier, B., Tipper, C. & Graf, P. (2003). Bivalency is costly: Bivalent stimuli elicit cautious responding.Experimental Psychology50, 233-238.

Graf, P. & Ohta, N. (Eds). (2002). Lifespan memory development. MIT Press.

Meier, B. & Graf, P. (2000). Transfer appropriate processing for prospective memory tests. Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, 14, 11-27.

Uttl, B., Graf, P. & Cosentino, S. (2000). Exacting assessments: Do older adults fatigue more quickly?"  Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology22, 496-507.

Uttl, B., Graf, P., Miller, J. & Tuokko, H. (2001). Pro- and retrospective memory in late adulthood.  Consciousness and Cognition,10, 451-472.

Graf, P. & Uttl, B. (2001). Prospective Memory: A new Focus for Research. Consciousness and Cognition10, 437-450.

Uttl, B. & Graf, P. (1997). Color-Word Stroop test performance across the adult life span. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology19, 405-420.

Graf, P. & Uttl, B. (1995). Component processes of memory: Changes across the adult lifespan. Swiss Journal of Cognitive Psychology6, 113-129.