Assignments and Projects for
CEP 564 -- Cognitive Psychology

Last updated 3/19/01
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Project No. 1 -- Critique
Due March 19, 2001
Research Paper
Due May 7, 2001
Masters of Illusion Handout
(Feb. 5, 2001)
Debate on Situated Cognition
(March 26, 2001

Project No. 1 -- Critique
(Please turn in two copies)

Due March 19, 2001

Select a relatively recent (3-5 years?) article from an empirical journal (e.g., Journal of Educational Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Memory and Cognition, Cognition and Instruction, etc.) which reports the results of a study dealing with some aspect of cognitive psychology. Cite the article according to the format specified in the APA Publication Manual (4th ed.) and do the following:

  1. Briefly (half a page??) identify and discuss the theoretical rationale and/or background of the study selected.

  2. Identify the question being asked by the investigator and state the hypothesis or hypotheses that were proposed.

  3. Describe the experimental design used by the investigator to test his or her hypothesis(es).

  4. Briefly describe the results of the experiment or study.

  5. Identify the conclusions the author(s) drew from the results of the study.

  6. Critique the results of the study and the author's conclusions, including the following types of concerns (if relevant):

    1. Were the investigator's hypothesis(es) and rationale reasonable in terms of past findings and/or theory, importance, and the like? Why or why not?

    2. Did the experimental design that was used provide an adequate test of the question(s) being asked by the investigator? (For example, is the experimental design a sound one?; are variables confounded?; is the study internally and externally valid?)

    3. Are the conclusions drawn by the authors consistent with the results and/or are they valid or justified?

    4. Do the results and corresponding conclusions actually relate to and/or provide any kind of answer to the question(s) originally asked?

    5. Any other concerns, weaknesses, and/or strengths that you feel are worth discussing.

  7. Discuss the implications of the study for the type of applied situation in which you are most interested (instruction, education, counseling, etc.). What needs to be done, if anything, in order to put the findings into a form that would have worth-while applications for practice. Perhaps the identification of a follow-up study and/or concrete procedures for applications would be helpful in this regard.

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Research Paper

Due May 7, 2001

As noted in the syllabus, this paper is perhaps the major assignment for the course. Its purpose is to provide you with an opportunity to think about, develop, and define a problem associated with the psychology of human cognition and instruction that you find interesting and to design a study that will help answer one of the questions arising from the problem.

The main impetus for the paper should come from you, but I will help you in any way I can. Perhaps you would find it useful to talk with me several times during the semester as the problem/question and the paper begins to evolve. This will give me an opportunity to react to the paper in its formative stages when my reactions may be most helpful to you. It is suggested that a draft of the paper be turned in approximately three weeks before the end of the semester; the draft will be critiqued in a manner that hopefully will help you write the final version of the paper. In this way I can provide you with feedback during the early stages of the learning associated with the paper instead of only after the paper has been completed. The final version of the paper should be written according to APA format (see the APA Publication Manual, Fourth Edition).

There are three major aspects to this paper:
  1. State what you consider to be an important, unanswered question in the area of human cognition and instruction and some of the reasons why you consider it to be an important question. Although I will provide you with feedback on my perceptions of how important other psychologists and educators would view the problem/question, the major thrust of my reactions will be in terms of how well you justify the importance of the question selected.

  2. What aspects of present-day knowledge are relevant to the question? In what ways do present-day research and theory relate to the question you have selected and in what ways do they fall short of providing an answer to your question? This will include reviewing some of the research (both theoretical and empirical) relevant to your question, but this review should consist of something more than just an annotated list of studies and theoretical positions.

  3. Design a study which is capable of providing an answer to the question you selected. The design of the study should be methodologically sound and valid, although I do not necessarily assume that you already have taken relevant courses in statistics, etc. It is not necessary for you to conduct the study as part of this course, but you may want to consider conducting the study you design at some later time.
Expectations for the paper and suggestions for ways to approach the assignment will be discussed in class. This paper will account for 40% of the student's grade for the course.

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Handout for Masters of Illusion
in-class activity on February 5, 2001

PROBLEM: How to make a flat surface give the illusion of depth.


  1. Does linear perspective really provide a "scientific" solution to the problem?

  2. What constitutes a "scientific" study? -- What is the nature of science? (see reverse side of this page)

  3. To what extent do the events portrayed in Masters of Illusion match Solso's and Shuell's descriptions of science on the reverse side of this page?

  4. How would you conduct a study to verify the validity of linear perspective?

  5. What is the relationship between the scientist and the practitioner?

Solso (2001) states that "From observation of objects and events, both experimentally controlled and in nature, scientists develop concepts in order to:

In his article about science elsewhere on this web site, Shuell (1997) makes the following statements:

Solso, R. L. (2001). Cognitive psychology (6th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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Class Debate on Situated Cognition
in-class activity on March 29, 2001

Teams of 3 or 4 students each will be given 20-30 minutes to prepare to debate the following items. One team will be assigned to take the pro side of the issue, and the other team will be assigned to take the con side of the issue. Include examples from counseling and/or education to illustrate the points you wish to make. In your preparation, remember to prepare counter argument to anticipated points that the other side is likely to make.

The debate format will permit each side to take 5 minutes to present its position, either pro or con, on the issue in question. Each side also will be given 4 minutes to rebut the arguments of the other side. The issue(s) to be debated will be selected by the instructor.

  1. "Authentic activities" and "situated cognition" are so practical in their focus that they run counter to the traditional role of education to "cultivate the mind."

  2. Success in the school culture "has little bearing on performance elsewhere" (Brown et al. 1989, p. 34).

  3. Mediated learning (in which students acquire knowledge already discovered by others) is more valuable than "authentic, situated" learning, since there is little value in having students "reinvent the wheel."

  4. "Greeno's suggestion that `all learning [and cognition] involves socially organized activities' is either false or vacuous" (Anderson et al., 1997, p. 20).

Anderson, J. R., Reder, L. M., & Simon, H. A. (1997). Situative versus cognitive perspectives: Form versus substance. Educational Researcher, 26(1), 18-21.

Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42.

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