Psychology 3185G-001

Research in Cognitive Psychology

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.


Cognitive theorists face a unique problem: the understanding of mental structures and processes that are not directly observable. A variety of methods used to address this problem will be surveyed, by introducing research questions of enduring interest. Students will be expected to use the techniques learned. Cognitive domains to be examined include attention, memory, problem- solving, and thinking.


Prerequisites: Psychology 2800E, 2810 and one of Psychology 2115A/B, 2134A/B or 2135A/B, 2220A/B, 2221A/B, or Neuroscience 2000 plus registration in third or fourth year Honours Specialization in Psychology, Honours Specialization in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience or Honours Specialization in Neuroscience.


Third or fourth year Psychology Majors and Psychology Special Students who receive 70% or higher in Psychology 2820E (or 60% or higher in Psychology 2800E and 2810), plus 60% or higher in one of Psychology 2115A/B, 2134A/B or 2135A/B also may enrol in this course.

2 lecture hours and 2 laboratory hours, 0.5 course.


Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enroll in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites.


Instructor:                                                   Dr. Patrick Brown

Office and Phone Number:                         SSC 7328 / Ext. 84680

Office Hours:                                              Wednesday 1:30 – 3:30



Teaching Assistant:                                     Hamad Alazary

Office:                                                        Announced in first lab meeting

Office Hours:                                              Announced in first lab meeting



Time and Location of Classes:                    Monday & Wednesday 4:30 – 6:30, SSC 3120

If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, there are several resources here at Western to assist you.  Please visit: for more information on these resources and on mental health.

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 ext 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.


In lieu of a textbook we’ll read recent papers from the cognitive psychology literature (see below). This year, the readings focus on applications of cognitive psychology research in the student’s life.



By the end of the course students should have:

  • Knowledge of the fundamental concepts in human cog
  • Extensive exposure to human cognition research paradigm
  • Hands-on experience in designing research projects (including one experiment), data collection and analysis, and preparing research reports on human experimental resea




Articulate the concepts and current states of knowledge in relevant natural and social science aspects of cognitive psychology

Exam short answers and essay questions

Access, interpret, and critically evaluate appropriate research in cognitive psychology

Lab assignments (literature review; proposal; experiment report); Exam short answer and essay questions based on weekly readings

Evaluate the appropriateness of different methodological approaches to address a specific question in cognitive psychology

Exam short answer and essay questions; lab assignments, particularly experiment proposal

Formulate a research hypothesis to address a psychological question and design a research project to test that hypothesis

Lab assignments (literature review; research proposal; poster presentation; written report)

Apply relevant quantitative skills to the analysis and interpretation of psychological phenomena

Analysis of experiment project data, evaluated in the form of Results section of final report paper

Engage in a critical scholarly discussion or debate on a psychological topic

Lab assignments (research proposal; poster presentation; final paper); final exam essay questions

Apply ethical standards to the practice of their own research

Research proposal and ethics review form are graded

Communicate in writing accurately, clearly, and logically, using the discourse of the discipline of cognitive psychology

Lab assignments (research proposal and final paper); Exam short answer and essay questions

Communicate orally accurately, clearly, and logically, using the discourse of the discipline of cognitive psychology

Lab assignment (poster presentation)


PLEASE NOTE:  Because this is an essay course, as per Senate Regulations (, you must pass the essay component to pass the course. That is, the average mark for your written assignments must be at least 50%.

Final course grades will be based on two major components – lab grades and exam grades. The lab component, which is described in detail in the lab outline, will be worth 50% of the final course grade. Note that the lab component counts as the essay component of the course. It is a formal policy of the university that students must pass the essay component of a course to pass the course. That is, the average mark for your written assignments in the lab must be at least 50% for you to pass the course.


The other 50% of the final course grade will be based on two exams, a midterm and a final exam, each worth 25% of the final course grade. Both exams will feature a combination of short-answer and essay questions. The midterm will cover readings and lectures up to and including Week 6. The final exam will cover the whole term.

Although the Psychology Department does not require instructors to adjust their course grades to conform to specific targets, the expectation is that course marks will be distributed around the following averages:

70%     1000-level and 2000-level courses
72%     2190-2990 level courses
75%     3000-level courses
80%     4000-level courses
The Psychology Department follows the University of Western Ontario grading guidelines, which are as follows (see ):

A+  90-100      One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level
A    80-89        Superior work that is clearly above average
B    70-79        Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory
C    60-69        Competent work, meeting requirements
D    50-59        Fair work, minimally acceptable
F    below 50    Fail


Midterm test            March 7, 2018 (in class)

Final exam              Scheduled by Registrar’s office for a time during the April exam period, April 14 - 30.


Week 1 – Introduction


Week 2 – Laptops and lectures


Mueller, P.A. & Oppenheimer, D.M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25 (6), 1159 – 1168. DOI: 10.1177/0956797614524581


Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N.J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers & Education, 62 (24 – 31).

Week 3 – Mind wandering during lectures


Farley, J., Risko, E., & Kingstone, A. (2013). Everyday attention and lecture retention: the effects of time, fidgeting, and mind wandering. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, Article 619. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00619


Szpunar, K.K., Khan, Y.N., & Schacter, D.L. (2013). Interpolated memory tests reduce mind wandering and improve learning of online lectures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1221764110.


Week 4 – Reducing exam anxiety


Frattaroli, J., Thomas, M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2011). Opening up in the classroom: Effects of expressive writing on graduate school entrance exam performance. Emotion, 11 (3), 691–696. DOI: 10.1037/a0022946


Ramirez, G., & Beilock, S. L. (2011). Writing about testing worries boosts exam performance in the classroom. Science, 331, 211-213.


Week 5 – Enhanced cognition


Farah, M.J., Smith M.E., Ilieva, I., & Hamilton R.H.. (2014). Cognitive enhancement. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 5, 95-103. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1250


Whetstine, L.M. (2015). Cognitive enhancement: Treating or cheating? Seminars in Pediatric Neurology, 22 (3), 172-176,


Week 6 – Do you have a learning style – or do you just think you have one?


Knoll, A.R., Otani, H., Skeel, R.L., & Van Horn, K.R. (2017). Learning style, judgements of learning, and learning of verbal and visual information. British Journal of Psychology, 108(3), 544 – 563.


Pashler H., McDaniel M., Rohrer D., & Bjork R. (2009). Learning styles: concepts and evidence.

Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9 (3), 105–19.


Willingham, D.T., Hughes, E.M. & Dobolyi, D.G. (2015). The scientific status of learning styles theories. Teaching of Psychology, 42 (3), 266-271. DOI: 10.1177/0098628315589505


Week 7– Winter Reading Week – no classes Week 8 – Procrastination

Hershfield, H. (2011). Future self-continuity: How conceptions of the future self transform intertemporal choice. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1235. 30-43. 10.1111/j.1749- 6632.2011.06201.x.


Blouin-Hudon, E.-M. C. & Pychyl, T.A. (2015). Experiencing the temporally extended self: Initial support for the role of affective states, vivid mental imagery, and future self-continuity in the prediction of academic procrastination. Personality and Individual Differences, 86, 50–56.


Week 9 – Midterm exam (in class) – covers lectures and readings up to and including Week 6 Week 10 – Stay with your first choice or revise an answer?

Couchman, J.J., Miller, N.E., Zmuda, S.J., Feather, K., & Schwartzmeyer, T. (2016). The instinct fallacy: the metacognition of answering and revising during college exams. Metacognition and Learning, 11, 171–185. DOI 10.1007/s11409-015-9140-8.


Week 11 – The testing effect (1)


Benjamin, A.S. & Pashler, H. (2015). The value of standardized testing: A perspective from cognitive psychology. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2 (1), 13 – 23. DOI: 10.1177/2372732215601116.


Roediger, H.L. & Pyc, M.A. (2012). Inexpensive techniques to improve education: Applying cognitive psychology to enhance educational practice. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1, 4, 242-248,


Smith, M.A. & Karpicke, J.D. (2014). Retrieval practice with short-answer, multiple-choice, and hybrid tests. Memory, 22 (7), 784 – 802. DOI: 10.1080/09658211.2013.831454


Week 12 – The testing effect (2)


Yang, C., Potts, R., & Shanks, D.R. (2017). The forward testing effect on self-regulated study time allocation and metamemory monitoring. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 23 (3), 263- 277.


Week 13 – Metacomprehension


Ikeda, K. & Kitagami, S. (2013). The interactive effect of working memory and text difficulty on metacomprehension accuracy. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 94-106. 10.1080/20445911.2012.748028.


Wiley, J., Griffin, T.D., Jaeger, A.J., Jarosz, A.F., Cushen, P.J. & W. Thiede, K.W. (2016). Improving metacomprehension accuracy in an undergraduate course context. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 22, 393-405. 10.1037/xap0000096.


Week 14 – Desirable difficulties


Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2011). Making things hard on yourself, but in a good way: creating desirable difficulties to enhance learning. In M. A. Gernsbacher, R. W. Pew, L. M. Hough, & J. R. Pomerantz (Eds.), Psychology and the real world: Essays illustrating fundamental contributions to society (pp. 56–64). New York: Worth Publishers.


Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offenses. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offenses because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offense are described at the following link:

As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offenses. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and

Possible penalties for a scholastic offense include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University.


Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 

Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation:


Office of the Registrar web site:

Student Development Services web site:

Please see the Psychology Undergraduate web site for information on the following:

- Policy on Cheating and Academic Misconduct
- Procedures for Appealing Academic Evaluations
- Policy on Attendance
- Policy Regarding Makeup Exams and Extensions of Deadlines
- Policy for Assignments
- Short Absences
- Extended Absences
- Documentation
- Academic Concerns
- 2017 Calendar References

No electronic devices, including cell phones and smart watches, will be allowed during exams.