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  • Students from Dr. Otten's Lab
  • Psychology Faculty

    Your Psychology Faculty

Elise Fenn

Elise Fenn
Assistant Professor
(818) 677-7621
Office location:



  • Ph.D 2015, Claremont Graduate University (Applied Cognitive Psychology)
  • M.A. 2012, Claremont Graduate University (Applied Cognitive Psychology)
  • B.A. 2009, California State University Fullerton (Psychology)

Specialty Areas: Cognitive Psychology, Legal Psychology, Lie Detection, Memory.


Courses Taught

  • Psy 321 / L Research Methods and Lab
  • Psy 488M/ S Advanced Topics in Cognitive Psychology

Selected Publications and Presentations

Blandón-Gitlin, I., Fenn, E., Masip, J., & Yoo, A. (2014). Cognitive load approaches to detect deception: Searching for cognitive mechanisms. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18(9),441-444.

Fenn, E., Newman, E., Pezdek, K., & Garry, M. (2013). The effect of nonprobative photographs on truthiness judgments persists over time. Acta Psychologica, 144(1), 207-211.

Fenn,E., Blandón-Gitlin, I., Pezdek, K., Yoo, A. (March, 2015). I'm innocent, but look guilty:” Ethnicity matters during an imposed cognitive load interview. American Psychology-Law Society Annual Conference, San Diego, CA.

Fenn, E., McGuire, M., Langben, S., Blandón-Gitlin, I. (March 2014). Imposing Cognitive Load Does Not Aid Deception Detection Regarding Future Intentions. American Psychology-Law Society Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA.

 Mayberry (Fenn), E., Blandón-Gitlin, I., Coons, J. Pineda, C., & Echon, R. (July 2013). Improving Cognitive Control in Liars Reduces Observer's Lie Detection Accuracy. Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, Rotterdam, Netherlands).

 Avila-Mora, E., Mayberry (Fenn), E., Mayberry, J., & Pezdek, K. (April, 2013). The Effect of Math Related Autobiographical Memory Activation on Math Attitudes and Performance. Paper presented at the Western Psychological Association Conference, April 2013. Reno, Nevada.

Research Interests

The focus of my research is at the intersection of cognitive psychology and the law, and includes other applied interests such as health and educational reform. Students working in my lab will have the opportunity to gain and apply research skills by participating in various aspects of the research process. Students may develop research materials, conduct literature reviews, analyze data using SPSS, R, Excel, conduct qualitative analyses of linguistic and non-verbal behaviors, assist in writing research papers and conference presentations, and attend lab meetings.  Students will be encouraged to develop skills in all areas related to conducting empirical research.

I have two main programs of research that focus on applying cognitive psychology theory to: (a) understanding the cognitive mechanisms that differentiate liars from truth tellers, and using that knowledge to improve the accuracy of interviewing techniques, and (b) understanding how the availability of information influences judgment, decision-making, memory, and behaviors. 

What makes a liar different from a truth-teller? What goes on in the mind of a liar? How can police and intelligence agents become better lie detectors?  These are a few of the ongoing questions that I am interested in studying. My research aims to develop, test, and apply techniques based on theory to assist deception researchers in improving the effectiveness current lie detection approaches.  Students interested in helping with this line of research may gain experience in a variety of ways, depending on the current research project underway. Possible student responsibilities include: coding qualitative (interview) data, conducting interviews, designing and carrying out mock crime experiments, creating online surveys using Qualtrics or SurveyGizmo software, or conducting literature reviews. Students interested in pursing an emphasis in legal/forensic psychology, cognitive psychology (applied or basic), or social psychology are encouraged to apply for this line of research.

Why do some viral stories feel truer than others? Why do some memories feel more available than others? Does the availability of memory influence our actions? This line of research focuses on how the availability of information in memory influences our beliefs, judgments, decisions, and actions.  This line of research examines how pairing certain stimuli (e.g., a trivia statement “Dogs have better memory than cats”) alongside related information (e.g., a picture of a dog) influences belief that the stimuli is true. Initial research suggests that related information, such as a photograph can boost credibility of statements by making information in memory about the statement more available, causing people to judge that the statement is true even when it is false.  A related line of research examines how recalling true autobiographical memories (e.g., recalling a successful public speaking experience) influences behaviors (e.g., reducing anxiety and improving public speaking performance).  Students interested in health behaviors, educational research, or legal psychology research are encouraged to apply for this line of research. Project development is underway to utilize these findings for interventions in these respective areas.

In addition to the above lines of research, I am interested in research methodology and statistics applied to social sciences research. In particular I am interested in applying Signal Detection Theory statistical methods to bettering our understanding of lie detection and memory.

Thank you for reading about my research interests. If you are interested in applying to work with me, please feel free to email me or stop by my office. Please be prepared to talk about your future goals, which area of research you are interested in, and why. I look forward to hearing from you soon!