Higher-level Cognition

TR 1:15-2:50, Muen E317 14 Jan - 3 Mar 2020

Matt Jones
Muenzinger D344
Office hours: You'll usually catch me if you drop in M 1-4 or W 11-3. It's easy to set a meeting with me in advance by email.

Class format

We will spend the bulk of each class discussing the article(s) assigned for that meeting. One student will be responsible for guiding the discussion. We will go through each article to make sure everyone understands the motivations, methods, and conclusions. However, the goal is for everyone to come to class as prepared as possible so that discussion can focus on critical analysis (and hopefully debate) of the core ideas, implications, validity, etc. of the research. During the final 5-10 minutes of each meeting, I will give a preview of the next readings.


Group discussion. The most important contribution each person can make is to our discussions of the readings. A seminar course in which everyone actively participates can be the most productive and educational forum in grad school (often for the teacher as well). Bringing together the various backgrounds and training of everyone in the room generally leads to a much richer perspective than would otherwise be possible. There is a lot of individual variability in tendency to speak up in this type of environment, but it is critical to an academic career to be comfortable doing so. You cannot succeed in this field without a willingness (and desire) to share your ideas in the face of criticism, and this is the best context to practice. It is also important that you speak up if there's anything in the readings that you don't understand, and I will trust everyone to do so. If you're someone who has no qualms about dominating a debate, this is also a good place to practice restraint and listening.

Written reactions. Each person should write a brief written reaction to the readings to be discussed each week. Reactions should be uploaded by the night before, to the appropriate folder here. Please write your reaction before reading anyone else's.

The reactions serve two purposes: as a nominal motivation to ensure everyone reads and carefully thinks about the articles, and as catalysts for the group discussion. Reactions should not be summaries. A few sentences at the beginning to summarize each article are generally useful, both for me to make sure everyone recognizes the critical points and for you to check your own understanding, but the primary content should be your own ideas in response to what you read. These ideas can be anything from connections to other research (from this class or elsewhere); to possible extensions, improvements, or follow-up work; to criticisms of the authors' logic or methods (provided they relate to the global point of the paper).

Leading discussion. Each student will sign up to lead the discussion for two meetings. The discussion leader will write a detailed (1-2 page) outline of each article, which will structure the discussion and which will also serve as a resource for the final exam. You can meet with me to go over the paper in advance if it will help. Ideally, the discussions will go beyond simple review of the readings, and it will be everyone's responsibility to contribute interesting ideas and reactions, but the discussion leader will be in charge of making sure that everyone understands the argument of each paper and that the critical points are covered. Outlines should be posted to the same folder as the reaction papers, before the start of class. You do not have to write a reaction for the days you lead discussion.

Final exam. A take-home essay exam will be distributed by Tuesday 3/3 and will be due by email by the end of Friday 3/13 (defined however you prefer). The exam is to be completed individually, with no communication between class members. This exam will count toward fulfillment of the Preliminary Exam requirements for students in the Cognitive Psychology PhD program. In addition, each student will submit (email to me) two possible exam questions. The best questions will encourage integration across topics. The major incentive to write good questions is that your own question (or some variant thereof) might appear on the final exam. The questions will be due by the end the day Friday 2/28.


     Group discussion30%
Written reactions15%
Leading discussion   15%
Final exam40%


1/16: Perspectives (Layne)

Newell, A. (1973). You can't play 20 questions with nature and win. In W.C. Chase (Ed.) Visual Information Processing (pp. 283-308). New York: Academic Press.

Hofstadter, D. (1985). Waking up from the Boolean dream, or, Subcognition as computation. In D. Hofstadter (Ed.), Metamagical Themas (Ch. 26). New York: Bantam.

1/21: Computational Architectures (Ziying)

Anderson, J. R., Bothell, D., Byrne, M. D., Douglass, S., Lebiere, C., & Qin, Y. (2004). An integrated theory of the mind. Psychological Review, 111, 1036-1060.

1/23: Neural Architectures (Boman)

Miller, E.K. and Cohen, J.D. (2001). An integrative theory of prefrontal cortex function. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 24, 167-202.

1/28: Symbols (Chelsea)

Clark, A. (2006). Language, embodiment, and the cognitive niche. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10, 370-374.

DeLoache, J. S., (2004). Becoming symbol-minded. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 66-70.

1/30: Reinforcement Learning (Dianna)

Sutton, R., & Barto, A. (1998). Reinforcement learning: An introduction. Chapter 1. MIT Press.

Daw, N. D., O'Doherty, J. P., Dayan, P., Seymour, B., & Dolan, R. J. (2006). Cortical substrates for exploratory decisions in humans. Nature, 441, 876-879.

2/4: Rational Analysis (Elena)

Griffiths, T. L., Kemp, C., & Tenenbaum, J. B. (2008). Bayesian models of cognition. In Ron Sun (ed.), The Cambridge handbook of computational cognitive modeling. Cambridge University Press.

2/6: Heuristics (Matt)

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124-1131.

Gigerenzer, G., & Brighton, H. (2009). Homo heuristicus: Why biased minds make better inferences. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1, 107-143.

2/11: Decision Making and Response Time (Boman)

Forstmann, B. U., Ratcliff, R., & Wagenmakers, E.-J. (2016). Sequential sampling models in cognitive neuroscience: Advantages, applications, and extensions. Annual Review of Psychology, 67, 641-666.

2/13: Conceptual Knowledge (Matt)

Murphy, G. I. and Medin, D. L. (1985). The role of theories in conceptual coherence. Psychological Review, 92, 289-316.

2/18: Multiple Systems (Elena)

Ashby, F. G., & Maddox, W. T. (2005). Human category learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 149-178.

2/20: Analogy (Dianna)

Gentner, D. (1983). Structure-mapping: A theoretical framework for analogy. Cognitive Science, 7, 155-170.

Knowlton, B. J., Morrison, R. G., Hummel, J. E. & Holyoak, K. J. (2012). A neurocomputational system for relational reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16, 373-381.

2/25: Insight and Problem Solving (Chelsea)

Helie, S., & Sun, R. (2010). Incubation, insight, and creative problem solving: A unified theory and a connectionist model. Psychological Review, 117, 994-1024.

2/27: Embodiment (Ziying)

Barsalou, L.W. (2008). Grounded cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 617-645.

3/3: Cultural Differences (Layne)

Nisbett, R.E., Peng, K., Choi, I., & Norenzayan, A. (2001). Culture and systems of thought: Holistic versus analytic cognition. Psychological Review, 108, 291-310.

University Policies (standard on all course syllabi)

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