Research Methods for Cognitive Scientists

University of California, Merced
COGS 105: Research Methods for Cognitive Scientists
Spring 2020

Lecturer: Adam M. Croom, Ph.D.

Lectures: Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:30 pm – 5:45 pm, Student Services Building (SSB) 130

Office Hours: By appointment over Zoom or at Social Sciences and Management Building (SSM) 250B

Course Description: Welcome to research methods in cognitive science! Cognitive scientists aim to understand the mental processes that underlie intelligent behavior, including how those processes evolve and develop over time. Their work concerns not just humans, but also nonhuman animals and machines, and requires a convergence of methods from different disciplines including anthropology, computer science, education, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, and psychology. The goals of this course are to familiarize students with the breadth of research methods in cognitive science, to provide hands-on experience with simple examples and demonstrations, and to provide background for conducting original cognitive science research in the lab or in the workplace.

Outcomes: Students that successfully complete this course will achieve several learning outcomes. First, students will have read dozens of important articles on research methods in cognitive science and will have developed an improved understanding of research methodology overall. For example, students will be able to distinguish strengths and weaknesses of different research methods and be able to determine when different research methods are appropriate. Second, students will have completed a research notebook in cognitive science and will have developed their note-taking and brain-storming skills. For example, students will be able to highlight the key results, methods, and implications of research articles that they read and be able to use this as a springboard for future reading, writing, and project development. Third, students will have completed a research paper in cognitive science and will have developed improved skills and strategies for working on their own future publications. For example, students will be able to organize their writing into meaningful sections such as methods, results, and general discussion, as well as be able to determine what kind of information is important to include in each of these sections. Fourth, students will have improved their expertise in a particular area of their choice within cognitive science. For example, each student in class is given the opportunity to work on their own original research paper within cognitive science, and they are encouraged to work on a topic and methodology that is of greatest interest to them. The goal of this is for each student to take what they have learned about research methods during this course and to apply that to an original research project of their own that they care about. Finally, by completing the lab sections for this course, students will gain hands-on experience utilizing a variety of methods in cognitive science, including the following:

  • Methods from Philosophy: Students will argue for a philosophical position using logic and reason.
  • Methods from Psychology: Students will measure human behavior to test hypotheses.
  • Methods from Neuroscience: Students will measure neural activity to test hypotheses.
  • Methods from Anthropology: Students will observe and record behavior in naturalistic settings.
  • Methods from Linguistics: Students will evaluate natural language data to reason about how minds work.
  • Methods from AI: Students will evaluate computer algorithms that model and mimic intelligent behavior.

Required Reading: The readings will be available for you on CatCourses.

Assignment Submissions: Submit your assignments by uploading them directly onto CatCourses.

Grading Procedures: Your grade for this course will be based on your performance on regular lecture activities (25%), lab activities (25%), a research notebook (25%), and a final research paper (25%). A grading rubric will be provided along with your assignments.

Academic Integrity: Each student must abide by the Academic Honesty Policy at the University of California, Merced. You must do all of your own work on homework assignments, projects, and exams, and copying is never allowed. Violations of academic integrity will result in disciplinary action.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: The University of California is committed to ensuring equal opportunities and inclusion for students with disabilities based on the principles of independent living, accessible universal design, and diversity. The University of California requests for academic accommodations to be made during the first three weeks of the semester, except for unusual circumstances, and students are encouraged to register with the Disability Services Center to verify their eligibility for appropriate accommodations. I am available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations that may be required for students with disabilities, so if you have any questions about this please feel free to ask.

Additional Remarks: This syllabus is tentative and subject to change so stay tuned for updates. To create an optimal learning environment computers can only be used for class exercises and notes (no gaming or social media, etc.) and no audio or video recordings are allowed in class. If you have any questions or want to talk more about the course, majoring in cognitive science, or your future career, I encourage you to visit me during office hours for a chat. I value your contributions in class and look forward to seeing you develop this semester.

Schedule Overview:

  • Lecture 1: Wednesday, January 22, 2020. Introduction to Research Methods in Cognitive Science.
  • Lecture 2: Monday, January 27, 2020. Methods from Philosophy I.
  • Lecture 3: Wednesday, January 29, 2020. Methods from Philosophy II.
  • Lecture 4: Monday, February 3, 2020. Methods from Philosophy III.
  • Lecture 5: Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Methods from Philosophy IV.
  • Lecture 6: Monday, February 10, 2020. Methods from Psychology I.
  • Lecture 7: Wednesday, February 12, 2020. Methods from Psychology II.
  • Presidents Day Holiday: Monday, February 17, 2020. No Lecture.
  • Lecture 8: Wednesday, February 19, 2020. Methods from Psychology III.
  • Lecture 9: Monday, February 24, 2020. Methods from Psychology IV.
  • Lecture 10: Wednesday, February 26, 2020. Methods from Psychology V.
  • Lecture 11: Monday, March 2, 2020. Methods from Neuroscience I.
  • Lecture 12: Wednesday, March 4, 2020. Methods from Neuroscience II.
  • Lecture 13: Monday, March 9, 2020. Methods from Neuroscience III.
  • Lecture 14: Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Methods from Neuroscience IV.
  • Lecture 15: Monday, March 16, 2020. Methods from Anthropology I.
  • Lecture 16: Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Methods from Anthropology II.
  • Spring Recess: March 23-March 26, 2020. No Lectures.
  • Lecture 17: Monday, March 30, 2020. Methods from Anthropology III.
  • Lecture 18: Wednesday, April 1, 2020. Methods from Anthropology IV.
  • Lecture 19: Monday, April 6, 2020. Methods from Linguistics I.
  • Lecture 20: Wednesday, April 8, 2020. Methods from Linguistics II.
  • Lecture 21: Monday, April 13, 2020. Methods from Linguistics III.
  • Lecture 22: Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Methods from Linguistics IV.
  • Lecture 23: Monday, April 20, 2020. Methods from Artificial Intelligence I.
  • Lecture 24: Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Methods from Artificial Intelligence II.
  • Lecture 25: Monday, April 27, 2020. Methods from Artificial Intelligence III.
  • Lecture 26: Wednesday, April 29, 2020. Methods from Artificial Intelligence IV.
  • Lecture 27: Monday, May 4, 2020. Preparing Your Research Paper.
  • Lecture 28: Wednesday, May 6, 2020. Final Review and Looking Forward.
  • Final Exam: Thursday, May 14, 2020. 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, Student Services Building (SSB) 130.