PSYC 617: Cognitive Psychology




Class Number 75316



Bartlett 212


This syllabus is available at: and on Moodle.


Professor: David Huber

Office Hours:

Wed. 10-11

Tobin 425





Course Description (3 credits):


Cognitive Psychology is the scientific study of fundamental mental processes such as perception, attention, memory, knowledge, language, problem solving, reasoning, and decision-making. In short, cognitive psychology takes an engineering approach to explain the mind. PSYC 617 concerns 'higher-level' cognition whereas next semester, PSYC 618 concerns the neural basis of cognitive processes, including sensation and perception.


In the course of reviewing research in each area, we will often cover mathematical/computational models although we will not implement these models. The goal is to understand these models at a conceptual level. These models provide a rigorous theoretical approach to the study of cognition.


For each area of Cognitive Psychology there will first be a lecture covering general background, and then we will read several journal articles. In many cases these will be 'classic' articles that are widely cited in the literature. Course requirements include article readings, two take-home exams, reactions to readings, discussion leader for one class, and active participation.



Textbook for background lectures (not required): Cognition: Exploring the Science of the Mind (Sixth Edition), Author: Daniel Reisberg, Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, Edition: 6.



Electronic Resources:


This course has a Moodle page. It serves many purposes.










Reactions to readings. You are required to post a reaction to each of the journal article readings (i.e., everything but the textbook chapters) to a Moodle discussion by 10pm the evening before the reading is discussed. Your reactions can be in the form of a question about something you didn't understand or in the form of an objection, alternate interpretation, etc. Reactions should be one to three paragraph in length. These reactions should make it clear that you've read the article thoroughly and carefully beyond what you gain from the abstract.


Class discussion leader. You will be scheduled to lead one class discussion of an assigned reading. During the first part of this class, you should review the main findings and theories covered in the article (chalk talk or power point). During the second part of this class, you should use your fellow students' Moodle posts to generate discussion about the article. There is no need to write a reaction when it is your turn to be discussion leader.


Class participation. Class participation is an integral part of a small graduate class. Please provide comments and ask questions. A 100% participation requires that speak in every class at least once.


Exams. This course will have two take home exams. These exams will be non-cumulative, with one occurring halfway through the course and the other during the final week of classes. These exams will test your knowledge of the content covered in the class and ask you to integrate material across the readings. The exams will be in essay format. For each exam, one class will be devoted to class discussion of the exam questions. This discussion will occur without Prof. Huber. The goal of this discussion is for you to help each other think through different viewpoints and relevant readings, but you need not come to a consensus with your classmates (I expect to receive different answers from different students). Come to these exam discussion classes having already researched your answers, but you may want to wait til after this class before starting to write your exam answers. When it comes time to write your exam, you must do so on your own. Exams will be compared against each other, against the class readings, and against the literature, using plagiarism detection software.




Grading. Your grade will be calculated as follows:


-          reactions to readings: 20%

-          class participation: 20%

-          class leader: 10%

-          Exam 1: 25%

-          Exam 2: 25%




Class Policies



Attendance Policy. If you know you are going to miss a class, please tell me in advance. If you are sick or have some other emergency once or twice during the semester it is not a major concern. However, repeated absences will affect your participation grade.


Please come to class on time.


Please do not text, surf the web, etc. in class (although in some cases it will be appropriate to look up material related to the ongoing in-class discussion).


If you miss the day you are supposed to lead discussion, this will result in a grade of 0 for that presentation, unless you provide a university-sanctioned excuse.


Late Exam Policy. Because the exams are take-home exams, with more than 5 days to complete each exam, late exams will not be accepted.


Accommodation Statement. The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements.


Academic Honesty Statement. Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Instructors should take reasonable steps to address academic misconduct. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair. Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence for lack of intent. Additional information can be found here:


If you are unfamiliar with what constitutes plagiarism, please see and I have access to and will use plagiarism detection software. Any case of plagiarism will automatically receive a zero on that assignment and will be reported.






Topic / Class leader



Tu 6 Sept

Introduction / Huber



Th 8 Sept

Approaches / Huber

Chs. 1 + 2


Tu 13 Sept

Perception / Huber

Chs. 3 + 4


Th 15 Sept

Ecological and Information Processing / Amadee

Mace (1977)

Marr, 1982, 1.2 and 1.3 - (on Moodle)


Tu 20 Sept

Object Identification / Alice

Biederman (1987)


Th 22 Sept

Neural Networks / Aaron

Rogers & McClelland (2014)


Tu 27 Sept

Bayesian Modeling / Vanessa

Griffiths and Yuille (2006)

Gershman, Horvitz, & Tenenbaum (2015)


Th 29 Sept

Attention / Huber

Ch. 5


Tu 4 Oct

Controlled-Automatic / Ryan

Schneider & Shiffrin (1977)


Th 6 Oct

Working Memory / Huber

Ch. 6

Tu 11 Oct

no class (Columbus Day)


Th 13 Oct

WM Components / Genna

Miyake et al. (2000)


Tu 18 Oct

Cognitive Control / MK

Miller & Cohen (2001)

Exam 1 handed out Oct. 18 in class, due by Monday Oct. 24 10pm


Th 20 Oct

class discussion of Exam 1 (w/o Prof. Huber)


Tu 25 Oct

Episodic Memory / Huber

Ch. 7 + 8


Th 27 Oct

Retrieval Times / Jeff

Ratcliff (1978)


Tu 1 Nov

Complementary Learning / Duy

McClelland et al. (1995)


Th 3 Nov

Knowledge / Huber

Ch. 9


Tu 8 Nov

Categorization / Ian

Nosofsky (1986)


Th 10 Nov

Language / Huber

Ch. 10


Tu 15 Nov

Semantics / Brien

Landauer & Dumais (1997) - (on Moodle)


Th 17 Nov

no class (Psychonomics)


Tu 29 Nov

Syntax / Amanda

Levy (2013)


Th 1 Dec

Decision Making

Ch. 12


Tu 6 Dec

Heuristics / Alexandra

Tversky & Kahneman (1986) (on Moodle)


Th 8 Dec

QP theory / Molly

Pothos & Busemeyer (2013) first 18 pages

Exam 2 handed out Dec. 8 in class, due by Saturday Dec. 17 10pm


Tu 13 Dec

class discussion of Exam 2 (w/o Prof. Huber)