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 Laboratory in Cognitive Science(2002)  posted by  duggu   on 12/12/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Sinha, Pawan, 9.63 Laboratory in Cognitive Science, Fall 2002. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 08 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Using the tools we have to study the structure and function of the brain.

Using the tools we have to study the structure and function of the brain. (Graphic by Prof. Pawan Sinha.)

Course Highlights

This undergraduate laboratory course in cognitive sciences introduces students to new and classic works in the field of cognition and how to study the mind. The site features readings and sample assignments designed to involve the student in the subject.

Course Description

Teaches principles of experimental methods in human perception and cognition, including design and statistical analysis. Combines lectures and hands-on experimental exercises; requires an independent experimental project. Some experience in programming desirable. To foster improved writing and presentation skills in conducting and critiquing research in cognitive science, students are required to provide reports and give oral presentations of three team experiments; a fourth individually conducted experiment includes a proposal with revision, and concluding written and oral reports.

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.




The goal of this course is to prepare you for conducting and critiquing research in cognitive science. To achieve this goal, the course will cover the following five topics.

1. Basic research methodologies. A series of lectures and case studies (many of them deliberately flawed) will introduce you to fundamental issues of experimental design, sample collection and ethics.

2. Data analysis. How can one summarize experimental data and make intelligent inferences from them? You will learn about important statistical analysis techniques in a 'hands-on' fashion - by examining how these techniques have been used in several real research papers.

3. Writing research papers and presenting your work. No matter how good a scientist you are, if you cannot communicate your ideas effectively in your papers and talks, the impact of your research will likely be greatly diminished. The course will provide some pointers about good writing and presenting style.

4. Studying and critiquing past experiments. A necessary part of being a scientist is reading past and ongoing work from other laboratories and understanding the strengths and limitations of their findings. Through example case studies, we shall try to indicate how to develop a discerning attitude when reading papers.

5. Conducting independent experiments. To reinforce your learning of research methodologies and writing style, you will design, run and writeup several experiments in various areas of cognitive science including (but not limited to) human attention, vision, memory, imagery and reasoning. Not only will this exercise help bring together all the topics touched upon in the course, it may also allow you to produce a publishable paper.


Your grade in class will be determined by:

In-class participation (5%)
Mid-term examination (20%)
3 write-ups and presentations of team experiments (45%)
1 write-up of an independently conducted experiment (30%)
Satisfaction of learning (priceless)



  1       Goals of the class and overview of content and Administrivia        
  2       The genesis and nature of research ideas
Basics of data collection and analysis
  3       Experimental design - I        
  4       Data analysis - I        
  5       Experimental design - II        
  6       Data analysis - II        
  7       Home experiment presentations       Home experiments (set 2) handed out
  8       Data analysis in Excel; Presenting        
  9       Tutorial on Matlab (data analysis and Psych Toolbox)        
  10       Correlational research        
  11       Small N designs        
  12       Quasi-experimental designs/ Applied research/ Descriptive research        
  13       Home experiments (set 2) presentations       Home experiments (set 3) handed out
  14       Mid-term Exam        
  15       Ethics in conducting and reporting research        
  16       Flawed papers - I       Papers for home experiments (set 2) due in class
  17       Flawed papers - II        
  18       Home experiment presentations (set 3)        
  19       Flawed papers - III        
  20       Areas of research at MIT and the neighborhood       Papers for home experiments (set 3) due in class
  21       Final project presentations        
  22       Final project presentations        
  23       Final project presentations        
  24       Final project presentations        
  25       Show-case presentations        
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