Seven Minutes in Heaven with Lisa Fazio

Some talents are cultivated, and some we are born with. Lisa Fazio, principal investigator at the Building Knowledge Lab and assistant professor of Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt University, was born to be a scientist. She has always been fascinated by the scientific method and discovery.

Today, she uses her passion to uncover how memory works, and, among other things, how false information is remembered and shared.

In 2015, she published the paper Knowledge Does Not Protect Against Illusory Truth. Fazio and her colleagues found that repetition plays a critical role in remembering false information. Just hearing incorrect information more than once is likely to be remembered as true.

Fazio won the 2017 frank Prize for Research in Public Interest Communications for this paper. We talked with Lisa about her experience at frank 2017, and what it was like to win the $10,000 prize.

What was it like attending frank and frank scholar?

It was great! One thing I loved was getting to talk with people who actually do this for a living. They were really interested in knowing what the research had to say and how they could improve what they were doing based on the research the other finalists and I were presenting.

Tell us about the moments you were able to connect with people.

frank has a wide variety of people and they’re all interested in knowing the best practices so they can get the most out of what they are doing. I was also able to connect with all the people who spoke at frank. Some were other researchers, some were practitioners. I connected with one woman there. We kept talking and we now have grant money together. It was just really great finding out what people (practitioners) who are actually doing this are interested in. What gaps do they see in the research, and how can we be helping them out?

What was it like presenting at frank?

I really enjoyed it. The frank team did a really great job coaching me on how to present research to a lay audience. I developed this great framing and story that I could tell about my research that allows it to connect with people outside of the research world. It helped me a lot with the grants we just got. Knowing already how to present my work to them to get them interested and excited was really important.

How did it feel to win the $10,000 prize?

It was great! That money is now sitting in an account at my university. What is amazing is I can use it for anything. Most grants have a lot of stipulations about how you can use the money and what you have to do with it. Now I have this pocket of money that I can really use to advance my research in the way that I think is most interesting. And we have already spent it doing some follow up studies that I won the research prize for. I wouldn’t be able to do without the award.

What is the relationship between your research and public interest communications?

I am really interested in how people learn and remember information. A lot of my work deals with what happens when people see information that is wrong or contradicts their prior knowledge. By knowing how people learn information from the world around them, you can take that to better design public interest communications strategies. These are the things that will make people think this is more true. These are the things that will get them to remember what is in your campaign. So knowing how memory works really helps people design their campaign strategies.

Can you tell us about your favorite moments from frank 2017?

The giant trophy I was handed when I won. I think it was for motorcycle riding. It’s amazing. The opening presentation! We were all sitting in the Hippodrome Theatre, and I had no idea what to expect. Then there is this amazing skit that really embodies that year’s theme of curiosity. I love that everything is done in a small theater where everyone is together. Everyone is watching the same thing. It is such a small space that the conference feels smaller than it actually is.

Even just having drinks with people, chatting about what they do and what interests them about the research, what they still need more information on. I connected with Troy Campbell (frank 2016 prize winner), he and I have kept chatting about research ideas and possibilities.

“As researchers, we need to know what the actual challenges are in the field. Where do these campaigns get stuck? Where do they have trouble that they need our help to get better? As a researcher I find it much more interesting to be dealing with a problem that has theoretical and practical importance,” says Lisa Fazio, frank 2017 prize winner


Why should researchers apply for the prize?

Many reasons. One it is a quick and easy submission process. It is not like writing a giant grant. It is less than a page. But it will get you to think hard about why your research is relevant to public interest communications. I really enjoyed getting to know other scholars that are doing research in this issue, but maybe not in my specific area.  Also getting to know practitioners who are doing the hard work of trying to get people to believe in their cause and take action toward it. Scientists really have a lot to offer to those folks.

As researchers, we need to know what the actual challenges are in the field. Where do these campaigns get stuck? Where do they have trouble that they need our help to get better? As a researcher I find it much more interesting to be dealing with a problem that has theoretical and practical importance. I am learning more about how memory works and what things improve memory of different types of information, but I am also having an impact on the world and changing how practitioners do their craft.

Listen to Fazio’s interview on Seven Minutes in Heaven With a Scientist.

Watch her at frank 2017.


Are you a researcher? Learn more about the prize and submit your work! Deadline is Dec. 1. 

Posted: November 29, 2017
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