We use behavioral and neuroscience techniques to study what allows people to act and think flexibly in complex situations. Our research falls into the following broad themes:

Cognitive Control

Cognitive control allows us to sustain goal-directed action in the face of interfering action tendencies. A major goal of our research is to understand how control of thought and action arises from the interplay between learning, memory and attention.

Kikumoto, A., & Mayr, U. (2019). Balancing Model-Based and Memory-Free Action Selection under Competitive Pressure. eLife, 48810: LINK. BioRxiv: LINK

Hubbard, J., Kuhns, D., Schäfer, T. A., & Mayr, U. (2017). Is conflict adaptation due to active regulation or passive carry-over? Evidence from eye movements. Journal of experimental psychology: learning, memory, and cognition, 43(3), 385.PDF

Kikumoto, A., Hubbard, J., & Mayr, U. (2016). Dynamics of Task-set Carry-Over: Evidence from Eye-Movement Analyses. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review,23(3), 899-906. PDF

Mayr, U., Kuhns, D., & Hubbard, J. (2014). Long-Term Memory and the Control of Attentional Control. Cognitive Psychology, 72, 1-26. PDF

Mayr, U., Kuhns, D., & Rieter, M. (2013). Eye movements reveal dynamics of task control. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142(2), 489.PDF

Mayr. U. & Kliegl, R. (2003). Differential effects of cue changes and task changes on task-set selection costs. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 29, 362-372. PDF

Mayr, U., Awh, E., & Laurey, P. (2003). Does conflict adaptation require executive control? Nature Neuroscience, 6, 450-452. PDF

Mayr, U., & Keele, S. (2000). Changing internal constraints on action: The role of backward inhibition.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 129, 4-26. PDF

Sequential Representation

Most of the interesting things, humans do (e.g., music, language, dancing, coding, etc.) unfold in terms of complex sequences. In our work, we try to characterize the processes and sequences that underlie sequentially organized behavior.

Kikumoto, A., & Mayr, U. (2018). Decoding hierarchical control of sequential behavior in oscillatory EEG activity. eLife,7:e38550. LINK

Mayr, U., Kleffner-Canucci, K., Kikumoto, A., & Redford, M. A. (2014). Control of task sequences: What is the role of language?. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(2), 376. PDF

Mayr, U. (2009). Sticky plans: Inhibition and binding during serial-task control. Cognitive Psychology, 59(2), 123-153. PDF

Krampe, R. T., Mayr, U., & Kliegl, R. (2005). Timing, sequencing, and executive control in repetitive movement production. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31, 379-397. PDF

Keele, S., Ivry, R., Mayr, U., Hazeltine, E., & Heuer, H. (2003). The cognitive and neural architecture of sequence representation. Psychological Review, 110, 316-339. PDF


Our lab has a long-standing interest in understanding how adult aging affects our cognitive system. In our most recent work, we test the hypothesis that with aging comes a more general shift in control mode, towards frequent updating of working memory and outsourcing control to the environment (rather than relying on internal representations).

Schwarzkopp, T., Mayr, U., & Jost, K. (2016). Early Selection Versus Late Correction: Age-Related Differences in Controlling Working Memory Contents. Psychology and aging. PDF

Mayr, U., & Spieler D.H. (in press). When and why do old adults outsource control to the environment? Psychology and Aging. PDF

Lindenberger, U., & Mayr, U. (2014). Cognitive Aging: Is There a Dark Side to Environmental Support? Trends in Cognitive Science. 18, 7-15. PDF

Spieler, D. H., Mayr, U., & LaGrone, S. (2006). Outsourcing cognitive control to the environment: Adult age differences in the use of task cues. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13(5), 787-793. PDF

Social Decision Making

Many high-stakes, real-world decisions require that we consider other people’s thoughts and actions. We use behavioral and neuroscience methods to examine how we make such decisions and how they change across the adult life span.

Kcarns, C. M., Moore III, W. E., & Mayr, U. (2017). The Cultivation of Pure Altruism via Gratitude: A functional MRI Study of Change with Gratitude Practice. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 599.PDF

Knight, E. L., Christian, C. B., Morales, P. J., Harbaugh, W. T., Mayr, U., & Mehta, P. H. (2017). Exogenous testosterone enhances cortisol and affective responses to social-evaluative stress in dominant men. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 85, 151-157. PDF

Hubbard, J., Harbaugh, W.T., Srivastava, S., Degras, D., & Mayr, U. (2016) A General Benevolence Dimension that Links Neural, Psychological, Economic, and Life-span Data on Altruistic Tendencies. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. PDF Supplemental Materials Data

Wozniak D., Mayr, U., & Harbaugh, B. (2014). The Menstrual Cycle and Performance Feedback Alter Gender Differences in Competitive Choices. Journal of Labor Economics. PDF

Harbaugh, W. T., Mayr, U., & Burghart, D. R. (2007). Neural responses to taxation and voluntary giving reveal motives for charitable donations. Science, 316(5831), 1622-1625. Full text here