Deborah M. Burke

W.M. Keck Distinguished Service Professor and Professor Emerita of Linguistics and Cognitive Science
With Pomona Since: 1977
  • Expertise


    Her research has focused on the cognitive and neural processes involved in language, and how these change with aging.

    Her work has been featured in multiple publications, and on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air." Her current research focuses on language and cognition, failures of language production ("tip-of-the-tongue" experiences), and how emotion affects language and memory in young and older adults.

    Research Interests

    • Cognitive and neural processes involved in language, and how they change with aging
    • Failures of language production, such as tip of the tongue experiences
    • How emotion affects language and memory in young and older adults

    Areas of Expertise

    • Aging and Cognition
    • Memory
    • Language and Memory
    • Language and Cognition
    • Word Finding Failures (tip of the tongue)
    • Emotion and Cognition
  • Work


    With E.R. Graham (2011), "Aging increases Inattentional Blindness to the Gorilla in Our Midst," Psychology and Aging

    With Shafto, M.A., Stamatakis, E.A., Tam, P.P., & Tyler, L.K. (2007). Atrophy in insula predicts increased word-finding failures with ageing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience19, 2060-2070.

    With Shafto, M.A. (2008). Language and aging. In F.I.M. Craik & T.A. Salthouse (Eds.), The handbook of aging and cognition (pp.373-443). New York: Psychology Press.

    With Osborne, G. (2007). Aging and inhibition deficits: Where are the effects? In D. Gorfein & C. MacLeod (Eds.),On the place of inhibitory processes in cognition (pp. 163-183) . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press. 

    With J. Locantore, A. Austin & B. Chae,(2004). Cherry Pit Primes Brad Pitt: Homophone Priming Effects on Young and Older Adults’ Production of Proper Names, Psychological Science, 15, p.164-170.

    With E. Cross (2004). Do alternative names block young and older adults’ retrieval of proper names? Brain and Language, 89, p.174-181.

    With M. Shafto (2004) Aging and Language Production, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, p. 21-24.

    With L.E. James (2001) Phonological Priming Effects on Word Retrieval and Tip-of-the-Tongue Experiences in Young and Older Adults, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 26: 1378-1391.

  • Education


    Bachelor of Arts, Barnard College
    New York City, New York

    Ph.D., Columbia University
    New York City, New York

    Recent Courses Taught

    • Intro to Psychology
    • Intro to Cognitive Science 
    • Memory & Language w/Laboratory
    • Seminar on Language, Memory and the Brain
  • Awards & Honors

    Awards & Honors

    National Institutes of Health, MERIT Research Grant, 1999-2004 and 2004-2009

    National Institutes of Health, Research Grant, "Memory and Language in Old Age," 1980-1999

    American Psychological Association Division 20, Mentor Award, 2004

    Pomona College, Wig Distinguished Professorship Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1981, 1984, 1990, 1996, 2008

    William M. Keck Distinguished Service Professor, 1995

    Fellow, American Psychological Society

    Clare Hall College, University of Cambridge, Fellow, 2003