John and Mary had never met.  They were like two
hummingbirds who had also never met. ~ Anonymous

Writing is like driving a car at night.  You can only see as far as the
headlights, but you make the whole trip that way. ~ E.L. Doctorow

The best writing is re-writing. ~ E.B. White 


You will be required to complete two short (5-7 pages) written assignments. One assignment is to write an APA-style report for one of the CogLab experiments completed by the class.  The other written assignment will be open-ended.  The only requirement is that you relate a topic discussed in class (or in one of the readings) to some event or phenomenon outside of the laboratory.   You may complete the two assignments in any order.  

Both papers must conform to the conventions of APA style. To help you learn the finer points of APA style, I have placed two word files on the course website (see menu to the left for links to the Style Guides). One is a general overview relevant to both assignments; the other gives additional information regarding the structure of a research report. Read these documents carefully and pay particular attention to the way you cite others' research in your text and in your references section. I will be happy to answer any questions that you have, so don't hesitate to contact me. Failure to comply with the guidelines provided in the Style Guides will be penalized heavily.


Journal-style research report

For one of your two papers, you must construct an APA-style report for any one of the CogLab experiments completed by the class.  An APA-style report includes 5 main sections.  The Introduction presents related work in the field and the motivation for doing the experiment in question.  The Method section provides demographic information about the subject, and describes the materials and procedures used to conduct the experiment.  The Results section usually presents the statistical analyses used to evaluate the data.  However, in our case, the results section will include a graph of the relevant data plus a description of the important results depicted by the graph. The Discussion section presents the empirical and theoretical significance of the data.  Finally, the References list works cited in the other four sections. 

You will be responsible for researching the literature related to the topic. Ideally, your introduction will discuss both current and older experiments related to the topic at hand. You will provide a detailed description of the methods used to collect the data, and will be required to present the relevant aspects of the data generated by the class (using the supplied graphs). In the discussion section, you should describe whether the data produced by the class matches the data typically observed in the literature, provide an explanation for any discrepancies, and explain the theoretical significance of the data.


Open-ended Assignment

For this assignment, I want you to analyze some of the ideas that we have talked about in this class (lecture, readings, textbook) in the context of the real world.  Focusing on a real-world issue will remind us that the primary goal of cognitive psychology is to explain behavior outside the laboratory, not inside it.  Therefore, one measure of the power of cognitive theories is to determine how well they operate outside of the laboratory.  My main concern is that your papers be thoughtful and motivated by scientific issues raised in the class.  I don't care too much about what direction you choose to take, as long as the discussion is grounded in either things that we have talked about or things that you have read. 

Here are some potential ideas to get you started:

  • Examine a recent motion picture and discuss whether its depiction of various aspects of cognition match what you would expect based on laboratory research.
  • Devise an advertising campaign that would both make your product memorable, and increase the chances that it was selected over competing brands.
  • Discuss whether research on decision making can be applied to everyday decisions like what movie to watch, car to buy, soft drink to drink, etc.
  • Examine a recent court case in light of research on eyewitness testimony.  Were the procedures used by the police/prosecutors likely to produce accurate testimony from the witness?  How might this have influenced the outcome of the trial?


At first, students are happy when they are given the freedom of an open-ended assignment.  But, as you will find out, having to generate a question is much more difficult than supplying the answer to a question that is provided for you.  The benefit of an open-ended assignment is that it illustrates the main difference between being a scientist and being student of science.  Students answer questions that are given to them.  Scientists devise their own questions and then try to answer them.  I want you to have an opportunity to devise your own questions.  The danger of an open-ended assignment is that it increases the probability that one or more of you will do something that fails to meet my expectations.  That is why I have agreed to read drafts of y'all’s papers.  This way, if your paper falls short of what I expected, I can tell you – before you turn in your final draft.