University of Arizona
Psy325 Cognitive Psychology
Fall, 2013


Instructor: Prof. Kenneth I. Forster
Office: Psychology 415b
Office Hours: MW 2:00-3:00 or by appointment

Teaching Assistant: Candace Black
Office: Psychology 111
Office Hours: MW 11:00-12:00

Course material will be posted on D2L.

Text: Galotti, K.M. Cognitive Psychology: In and Out of the Laboratory. (5th edition). Sage Publications, Inc.

Note: A cheaper E-version is available.


    This course introduces students to current thinking about the way in which the human mind represents and processes information about the outside world. These mental representations of objects and events serve as the basis for learning and memory, pattern recognition, the use of language, and our ability to reason and solve problems. 

    Also we will consider the types of computation that are carried out on these representations, how they are stored and retrieved. The emphasis throughout will be on the design and use of experimental methods to investigate these issues. Some typical questions that we will be considering: Is there a parallel between the computation carried out by computers and the brain? Can neural networks explain cognitive abilities? How do we quickly locate and identify critical visual objects in our environment? How do we retrieve information about words so rapidly? What do we need to know in order to be able to speak a language? 

    A critical part of the course will involve the class in designing and executing experiments using simple pencil-and-paper tests at first, but eventually using computer systems to carry out reaction time experiments.


  1. Background to the "Cognitive Revolution". What led up to the revolution. Behaviorism. Theories of conditioning. The Information-Processing Approach. The computer as a model of the brain. Computational theories. Automatic processing, serial and parallel processing, data-driven vs conceptually-driven processing. Levels of processing and levels of representation.
  2. The Analysis of Information-Processing Stages. Sensory Registers: Iconic memory, echoic memory, precategorical acoustic storage. Pattern Recognition. Template theory. Analysis by synthesis. Feature detectors. Recognition of objects. Biederman's geons. Letter recognition and context effects: the word superiority effect. Interactive activation model. Neural Network models. Sperling's theory of partial report phenomena.
  3. Attention. Broadbent's Filter model. Treisman's disproof of the early filter model. Late selection filter models. Capacity models. Automatic processing.
  4. Short-Term Memory (Working memory). Techniques for measuring immediate memory. Forgetting. Release from proactive inhibition. The Magic number 7 ± 2. Chunking. Memory codes. Acoustic, visual and semantic codes. Working memory. Scanning short-term memory (The Sternberg paradigm).
  5. Long-Term Memory. Autobiographical memory. Depth of processing. Organization effects. Imagery. Dual-code theory. Mnemonic techniques. Retrieval processes. Recognition memory. Explicit vs Implicit memory. Episodic vs Semantic memory. Levels of processing.
  6. Semantic Memory. Associative network models, spreading-activation. Semantic vs Episodic memory.
  7. Categorization. The nature of human concepts. Natural and nominal categories. Prototypes and Typicality.
  8. Language. Grammar, meaning and sound. Theories of syntactic structure. Structural ambiguity. Context effects in sentence comprehension. Language in thought. Language in animals.