Cynthia May, Ph.D.


Address: 55 Coming St., Office #103
Phone: 843.953.5590
Personal Website:
Curriculum Vitae: Download


Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
Ph.D., 1995

Research Interests

Wrapped presents are the best. Not only do they offer a gift, but they elicit the sweet sense of curiosity as you wait to open them. My research examines human curiosity, and explores the contexts in which curiosity can be helpful (for example, by driving discovery) and harmful (for example by exposing us to unpleasant experiences). What makes us curious, and does that change with age?

I’m also curious about a number of other things related to human cognition, including finding ways to optimize intellectual functioning for people who face cognitive challenges, like older adults and individuals with intellectual disabilities. Some of my research examines how we remember to execute important tasks in the future (e.g., paying a bill, calling a friend on their birthday, taking medication). Other work examines the ways in which emotion might influence our memories – in some cases improving memory and in other cases impeding memory.

It's important to me that basic research inform and improve our lives, and for that reason some of my work examines how we can improve outcomes for people with disabilities. What is it like to have a loved one diagnosed with a disability? How does the diagnosis experience affect outcomes for you and your loved one? Why are so many people with autism unemployed or underemployed? Do biases during the job interview process play a role? How does living and learning with people who have disabilities affect the way we see the world and other people in it?  These are some of the questions that have motivated my research over the past few years. My research has examined the factors that created and perpetuated segregated settings for people with disabilities, with the aim of improving options for all people.

Nearly all of my work involves collaboration with undergraduate students, who team with me on grant proposals, conference presentations, and publications. I also write a teaching column for APS, and enjoy writing about new research findings for Scientific American. You can check out some of my articles at:

Teaching Interests

  •        Cognitive Psychology
  •        Applied Cognitive Psychology
  •        Sins of Memory
  •        Adult Development and Aging
  •        Cognitive Laboratory
  •        Introduction to Psychological Science

Recent Publications

May, C. P., & Hasher, L. (2017). Synchrony affects performance for older but not younger neutral-type adults. Timing and Time Perception, 5, 129 -148.

Plotner, A., & May, C. P. (2017). A comparison of the college experience for students with and without disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities. DOI:

May, C. P., Manning, M., Einstein, G. O., Becker, L., & Owens, M. (2015). The best of both worlds: Emotional cues boost prospective memory accuracy and reduce repetition errors. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 22(3), 357-375. DOI:10.1080/13825585.2014.952263

Jones, M., Boyle, M., May, C. P., Paiewonsky, M., Prohn, S., Updike, J., & Wheeler, C. (2015). Building inclusive campus communities: A framework for inclusion. Think College Insight Brief, 26, 1-5.