P335 Cognitive Psychology
Fall 2000, Section 3789, Tu & Th 11:15-12:30, PY 109

Instructor Assistant
Name: John K. Kruschke Brian Rogosky
Office Room PY 336 PY 290
Office Phone: 855-3192
(Receptionist: 855-2012)
Office Hours: by appt. (please do ask!) M 12-1, Th 10-11
E-mail: kruschke@indiana.edu brogosky@indiana.edu

Course Topic: Cognitive psychologists study how people perceive and attend to the environment, how people learn and remember, how they comprehend and produce language, and how they reason and make decisions. Prof. Kruschke defines cognitive psychology as the reverse engineering of mind. "Reverse engineering" is a procedure that analyzes a working machine into its parts and interactions, with the goals of explaining, manipulating, and replicating the behavior of the machine. For example, aerospace engineers in various countries have been working hard to reverse engineer the American Stealth bomber. In cognitive psychology, the object of inquiry is the "mind," a far more elusive target than the Stealth Bomber. Cognitive psychology treats the "mind" as the software, or program, that runs on the computer hardware of the brain. As illustrated in the figure at right, this computer metaphor asserts that mind (the thought bubble) is to brain (the head) as software (the flowchart) is to hardware (the circuit board). Thus, one goal of cognitive psychology is to figure out the flow of information processing in the complicated program implemented by the brain. The point of the computer metaphor is not to assert that the mind is a program or that the brain is a digital computer, rather, the point is that we might study human cognition at the level of information processing (software) separately from the level of neural processing (hardware), just as we can with computers. In this course we will consider both levels of description, but we will emphasize the software.

One theme common to all cognitive processes is inference in the face of uncertainty. When we perceive an object, we are making an inference about the world, on the basis of uncertain stimulation on our sensory receptors. When we remember an event, we are making an inference about what probably happened, on the basis of imperfect and incomplete storage of information in our memories. When we interpret the meaning of a statement, we are making an inference about what the speaker probably intends, on the basis of ambiguous words and gestures. When we decide whether or not to take an action, we are making an inference about probable outcomes, on the basis of uncertain and incomplete information about the situation. This theme -inference under uncertainty- will be a central topic throughout the course.

Goals of This Course: The figure at left shows how knowledge in this course is organized. An important goal of the course is to help you understand this organized knowledge. The course includes many topics or themes (indicated at the top of the figure), such as attention, perception, memory, etc., and within each topic are many phenomena, such as the limited capacity of attention, or the distinction between long-term and short-term memory. (In the lowest branches of the figure, ``IV'' and ``DV'' stand for independent variable and dependent variable, respectively.) One goal of the course is for you to ponder real-life examples of these phenomena, so that the relevance of the material to our lives is clear. Another goal of the course is for you to understand scientific reasoning: both what happens in experiments and how the results are explained with theories. The overall goal is for you to understand better the relations between laboratory data, theory, and everyday life, in science generally, not only in cognitive psychology. The readings, homework assignments, and exams are designed to address these goals.

Readings: The Cognition in Action textbook couches the topics of cognitive psychology in many everyday situtations, so that the relevance of cognitive psychology to our lives is highlighted. You should ponder applications of cognitive psychology to your own personal experiences as you read this book. The Disorders textbook surveys the experiences of people who have suffered brain damage. Reading about these experiences again emphasizes the relevance of cognitive psychology to our everyday lives by focusing our attention on the amazing facilities of normal cognition which we tend to take for granted.

Required Textbooks:

Homework Assignments: To better understand particular laboratory experiments and their explanations (the bottom part of the knowledge organization diagram, reproduced at the right), you will complete four homework assignments. Each assignment explores a particular set of theories, which you manipulate to discover their different predictions, to test how well their predictions match human data, and to understand their underlying psychological principles (i.e., their representation and process). The assignments are posted on the web, and are available through links on the detailed schedule. Please read the policy regarding assignments turned in late.

Exams: Exams will consist mostly of multiple-choice questions. The exam questions tend to emphasize the lower branches of the knowledge organization, and questions will sometimes be explicitly structured like the knowledge organization diagram. The exams help you accomplish the goals of organizing your knowledge in a way that applies to science (and life) generally.

There will be four exams, on dates indicated in the detailed schedule. All four exams are mandatory. The format of the final exam will be the same as the mid-term exams. Please read the policy regarding missed exams.

Course Web Pages: This class has extensive information posted on the world wide web. Homework and paper assignments, announcements, exam review questions, scores, etc., are or will be posted there, along with this syllabus and schedule. Please check these web pages frequently.

You can access our class information at     http://www.indiana.edu/~jkkteach/P335/     (All the letters in this web address are lower case except the "P" in "P335", which is upper case. The little squiggle, "~", is called a tilde, and must be typed in as part of the address. The tilde key is usually located near the top left of the keyboard.) Perhaps the most important page is the detailed schedule, which has links to assignments, exam information, occasional lecture notes, etc. Another important page is the discussion page, where you can see the latest announcements and ask questions.

All the public computer clusters on campus have easy access to the web. If you do not yet know how to browse the world-wide web, it is important that you learn immediately. There are brochures available in the public computing clusters, and University Information Technology Services (UITS) also has STEPS classes on many topics. Detailed information about getting your first computing account at IU is available at the following web page address: http://kb.indiana.edu/data/achn.html

greater than
or equal to
97% A+
94% A
91% A-
88% B+
85% B
82% B-
78% C+
73% C
67% C-
55% D
0% F
Course Grading Method: Course grades will be based on absolute thresholds for total points (summing exams and homework assignments), according to the scale listed at the right. (Notice that the cutoffs are not the traditional 50, 60, 70, 80, 90.) It is Psychology Department policy to give incompletes ("I" grades) only with a valid medical excuse.

Each exam is worth 100 points, and each homework assignment is worth 20 points, for a total of 480 points. No extra credit assignments are allowed.

If you want to dispute a score you receive, you must submit your reasons in writing, along with your scored exam or homework assignment. This policy is helpful for two reasons: First, if a score change is justified, it gives us a paper document as a record of the change. Second, it gives you a chance to think through and present your argument carefully, to maximize your chances of success. Submit your brief written argument first to the teaching assistant. If the matter cannot be resolved to your satisfaction, then please see Professor Kruschke.

Please note that only overall course grades are assigned according to the scale shown above. Separate assignment or exam scores should not be interpreted according to this scale. For example, homework assignments are designed such that most students get most of the points most of the time, yet a high score should not be interpreted as meaning that you are getting an A+ in the course overall. Exams, on the other hand, often have lower distributions of scores, yet a low score on an exam should not necessarily be interpreted as meaning that you are getting a D in the course overall.

Hints for Learning:

Lecture Notes: Neither lecture notes nor copies of overhead projector transparencies are available. If you must miss a lecture, get notes from a classmate, and after looking over those notes if you have questions please see Prof. Kruschke or the assistant.

Why Take this Course: P335 can partially fulfill the Area A Requirement for the Psychology Major (B.A. or B.S.), and it also fulfills the Mathematical Sciences and Cognition sub-area of the Distribution Requirements for a Bachelor's Degree in the College of Arts and Science. It can also fulfill requirements in other majors, such as Cognitive Science.

You will probably discover, however, that the value of the course extends far beyond the curricular requirements it fulfills. As a result of learning about human cognition, you can be a better decision maker, be a better evaluator of information in the media, and be a more tolerant and better understood person. By learning about experiments and various theories, you can learn about the process of scientific thinking, not just its ultimate products. Finally, by understanding the theories, you learn about a contemporary approach to one of the most exciting areas of inquiry for the twenty-first century, the workings of the mind. Two indications of the topic's importance are that the College now includes "Cognition" in the title of one of its required sub-areas, and there is a new major called "Cognitive Science."

Classroom Etiquette: I have always been impressed by the high degree of mutual respect shown by students in my classes. Nevertheless, here are a few obvious standards of classroom etiquette. Cellular phones should be turned off during class, unless your phone is for urgent/emergency calls only. No personal listening devices are permitted during exams or lectures. Please do not read newspapers or other materials unrelated to class during lecture, as it is distracting to other students (and to the lecturer). Snacking during class is strongly discouraged, but if you must, please do it quietly and with foods that don't smell strongly. Snacking during exams is not permitted. Pack out and throw away or recycle any litter you generate. Black tie optional.

Disclaimer: This syllabus is meant to be suggestive, not absolute. Any and all of the information on this syllabus is subject to change at any time, including exam dates, grading policies, office hours, etc. Changes will be announced in class and on the Web.

Copyright © 2000 by John K. Kruschke