Cognitive Psychology and Research Methods | Abertay University

Cognitive Psychology and Research Methods


This module will introduce the cognitive aspects of the BPS curriculum. Cognitive psychology is a blanket term which encompasses much of what you might consider mental processes. These processes range from relatively low-level processes of perception to higher level things like memory and decision making. The module will use a combined teaching approach with conventional lectures supported by practical classes exposing students to experiments as participants. The experimental data gathered will be subsequently utilised in the research methods practicals.


The module aims to give students a working knowledge of how cognitive psychology works as a science. The student will be introduced to research methodologies, theories and models of how cognitive psychology works as a science. The students will also be introduced to the statistical concepts and methodologies that underpin research in psychology.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Understand conceptual and historical issues in cognitive psychology, the origins and philosophical underpinnings.

2.  Convey the major features of cognitive processes.

3.  Understand the key models and research findings in cognition.

4.  Demonstrate an understanding of research design and analysis approaches in psychology.

5.  Design, conduct and report experiments in cognitive psychology.

6.  Use SPSS to analyse empirical data using a variety of statistical techniques and then report these experimental data and analyses appropriately.

Indicative Content

1 Conceptual and historical perspectives

Origins of research in cognition, neuropsychology and language processing. Localising cognitive processes in different brain areas.

2 Neural architectures

Neurones, receptive fields and vision. How does the brain connect the world outside with our thoughts and experiences?

3 Perception and recognition

The recognition of objects and faces.

4 Attention

Is cognition a limited resource to be allocated carefully or do we attend to everything?

5 Learning and memory

What circumstances determine how we learn new information? How is this information stored in our brains and how do we access this information while reasoning?

6 Decision making and problem solving

How do we choose responses, how do we solve problems?

7 Quantitative and qualitative research methods

What research methods are available to psychologists? Hypotheses, variables and levels; Experimental design: control techniques; validity and reliability in experimentation.

8 Data: Types of data and types of analyses

Data analysis, descriptive statistics and inferential statistics. Data types; measures of central tendency, measures of dispersion, normal distribution, graphing data, confidence intervals, effect size and power.

9 Quantitative Statistics

Parametric and nonparametric tests of difference and tests of relationships. Test selection; with 2- sample test of difference and of relationships; reliability analysis using Cronbach's alpha, quantitative content analysis, item analysis.

10 Interpreting statistical analyses

How to we interpret and report the output of statistical analyses?

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

In line with the teaching and learning strategy of the University and the attributes to be fostered in students (i.e. personal, intellectual and professional development, active citizenship), the module will comprise a combination of lectures and practicals averaging three hours contact time per week. The first eight weeks of the module will concentrate upon cognition and practical experiments and will allow students to experience key cognitive studies. Teaching of cognition will be delivered via weekly lectures and three practical classes encouraging student-led learning. This promotes the graduate attributes and encourages deep learning in students. Research Methods classes will take place later in the module, with learning tasks based on the experimental data provided by the cognitive experiments that you participate in. For these classes, there will be a one-hour lecture and a two-hour practical to allow students to apply the techniques they learn about in lectures to real experimental design and data analysis. Feedback week will comprise an experimental design task that will be evaluated and used in subsequent Research Methods classes. Assessments will require students to demonstrate the depth of their knowledge of cognition (Unit 1) and their knowledge of research methods and their ability to interpret and write-up data (Unit 2).

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 20
Tutorial/Seminar 0
Supervised Practical Activity 15
Unsupervised Practical Activity 0
Assessment 54
Independent 111

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2017/18 , and may be subject to change for future years.