Cognitive Psychology Research Papers

A List Of Interesting Cognitive Psychology Topics For Research Papers


Cognitive psychology is a fascinating subject to study and provides a range of different topics for students who need to write research papers. However, due to the vast choice, it can make it slightly more difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that you want to base your essay on. For further inspiration when it comes to narrowing down your title, the following provides advice about selecting a topic to write about.

Finding psychology papers and articles online to use as an added source of inspiration

You may wish to look at titles and topics of essays that have been written about before. In order to find ideas for prewritten academic papers you can search for samples that have been published online.

Some of these samples may be available for free, although you may instead choose to pay for prewritten work available from a range of different companies on the Internet. Equally, you can even have bespoke samples prepared for you, as well as enlisting professionals to help you think of topic ideas.

Connecting topic ideas to form unique essay titles

If you want to try and create a truly unique title for your essay then you may decide to combine any topics that you find from prewritten work that has been published online. For example, you may find essays that have been written about to slightly different topics, both of which you are interested in; you can then take the main theme from each of these academic papers and combine them into a brand-new title, for example, based on a compare and contrast essay.

To give you an idea of some of the topics that you can write about for a cognitive psychology research paper, the following provides a list of titles that you may wish to use.

  • An analysis of language development in young children
  • A study into the links between intelligence and problem solving
  • Why do humans repress unpleasant memories?
  • What techniques can be used to recover memories?
  • How and why does the human mind distort memories?
  • Has modern technology impacted upon our attention spans?
  • How can theories relating to cognitive psychology be used in marketing?
  • Ethical problems related to carrying out research into cognitive psychology
  • How has our understanding of the brain developed over the past 50 years?
  • Are there any differences in brain structure that can impact upon the way in which men and women or adults and children approach problem solving?

Kenneth R. Paap | Zachary I. Greenberg

Three studies compared bilinguals to monolinguals on 15 indicators of executive processing (EP). Most of the indicators compare a neutral or congruent baseline to a condition that should require EP. For each of the measures there was no main effect of group and a highly significant main effect of condition. The critical marker for a bilingual advantage, the Group. ×. Condition interaction, was significant for only one indicator, but in a pattern indicative of a bilingual disadvantage. Tasks include antisaccade (Study 1), Simon (Studies 1-3), flanker (Study 3), and color-shape switching (Studies 1-3). The two groups performed identically on the Raven's Advanced Matrices test (Study 3). Analyses on the combined data selecting subsets that are precisely matched on parent's educational level or that include only highly fluent bilinguals reveal exactly the same pattern of results. A problem reconfirmed by the present study is that effects assumed to be indicators of a specific executive process in one task (e.g., inhibitory control in the flanker task) frequently do not predict individual differences in that same indicator on a related task (e.g., inhibitory control in the Simon task). The absence of consistent cross-task correlations undermines the interpretation that these are valid indicators of domain-general abilities. In a final discussion the underlying rationale for hypothesizing bilingual advantages in executive processing based on the special linguistic demands placed on bilinguals is interrogated. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.


Nash Unsworth | Keisuke Fukuda | Edward Awh | Edward K. Vogel

Several theories have been put forth to explain the relation between working memory (WM) and gF. Unfortunately, no single factor has been shown to fully account for the relation between these two important constructs. In the current study we tested whether multiple factors (capacity, attention control, and secondary memory) would collectively account for the relation. A large number of participants performed multiple measures of each construct and latent variable analyses were used to examine the data. The results demonstrated that capacity, attention control, and secondary memory were uniquely related to WM storage, WM processing, and gF. Importantly, the three factors completely accounted for the relation between WM (both processing and storage) and gF. Thus, although storage and processing make independent contributions to gF, both of these contributions are accounted for by variation in capacity, attention control and secondary memory. These results are consistent with the multifaceted view of WM, suggesting that individual differences in capacity, attention control, and secondary memory jointly account for individual differences in WM and its relation with gF. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.


John C. Trueswell | Tamara Nicol Medina | Alon Hafri | Lila R. Gleitman

We report three eyetracking experiments that examine the learning procedure used by adults as they pair novel words and visually presented referents over a sequence of referentially ambiguous trials. Successful learning under such conditions has been argued to be the product of a learning procedure in which participants provisionally pair each novel word with several possible referents and use a statistical-associative learning mechanism to gradually converge on a single mapping across learning instances [e.g., Yu, C., & Smith, L. B. (2007). Rapid word learning under uncertainty via cross-situational statistics. Psychological Science, 18(5), 414-420] . We argue here that successful learning in this setting is instead the product of a one-trial procedure in which a single hypothesized word-referent pairing is retained across learning instances, abandoned only if the subsequent instance fails to confirm the pairing - more a 'fast mapping' procedure than a gradual statistical one. We provide experimental evidence for this propose-but-verify learning procedure via three experiments in which adult participants attempted to learn the meanings of nonce words cross-situationally under varying degrees of referential uncertainty. The findings, using both explicit (referent selection) and implicit (eye movement) measures, show that even in these artificial learning contexts, which are far simpler than those encountered by a language learner in a natural environment, participants do not retain multiple meaning hypotheses across learning instances. As we discuss, these findings challenge 'gradualist' accounts of word learning and are consistent with the known rapid course of vocabulary learning in a first language. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.


Klaus Oberauer | Alessandra S. Souza | Michel D. Druey | Miriam Gade

The article investigates the mechanisms of selecting and updating representations in declarative and procedural working memory (WM). Declarative WM holds the objects of thought available, whereas procedural WM holds representations of what to do with these objects. Both systems consist of three embedded comp onents: activated long-term memory, a central capacity-limited component for building structures through temporary bindings, and a single-element focus of attention. Five experiments test the hypothesis of analogous mechanisms in declarative and procedural WM, investigating repetition effects across trials for individual representations (objects and responses) and for sets (memory sets and task sets), as well as set-congruency effects. Evidence for analogous processes was obtained from three phenomena: (1) Costs of task switching and of list switching are reduced with longer preparation interval. (2) The effects of task congruency and of list congruency are undiminished with longer preparation interval. (3) Response repetition interacts with task repetition in procedural WM; here we show an analogous interaction of list repetition with item repetition in declarative WM. All three patterns were reproduced by a connectionist model implementing the assumed selection and updating mechanisms. The model consists of two modules, an item-selection module selecting individual items from a memory set, or responses from a task set, and a set-selection module for selecting memory sets or task sets. The model codes the matrix of binding weights in the item-selection module as a pattern of activation in the set-selection module, thereby providing a mechanism for building chunks in LTM, and for unpacking them as structures into working memory. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.


Farfalla Ribordy | Adeline Jabès | Pamela Banta Lavenex | Pierre Lavenex

Episodic memories for autobiographical events that happen in unique spatiotemporal contexts are central to defining who we are. Yet, before 2. years of age, children are unable to form or store episodic memories for recall later in life, a phenomenon known as infantile amnesia. Here, we studied the development of allocentric spatial memory, a fundamental component of episodic memory, in two versions of a real-world memory task requiring 18. month- to 5-year-old children to search for rewards hidden beneath cups distributed in an open-field arena. Whereas children 25-42-months-old were not capable of discriminating three reward locations among 18 possible locations in absence of local cues marking these locations, children older than 43. months found the reward locations reliably. These results support previous findings suggesting that allocentric spatial memory, if present, is only rudimentary in children under 3.5. years of age. However, when tested with only one reward location among four possible locations, children 25-39-months-old found the reward reliably in absence of local cues, whereas 18-23-month-olds did not. Our findings thus show that the ability to form a basic allocentric representation of the environment is present by 2. years of age, and its emergence coincides temporally with the offset of infantile amnesia. However, the ability of children to distinguish and remember closely related spatial locations improves from 2 to 3.5. years of age, a developmental period marked by persistent deficits in long-term episodic memory known as childhood amnesia. These findings support the hypothesis that the differential maturation of distinct hippocampal circuits contributes to the emergence of specific memory processes during early childhood. © 2012.


Gordon Pennycook | Jonathan A. Fugelsang | Derek J. Koehler

© 2015 Elsevier Inc.. The distinction between intuitive and analytic thinking is common in psychology. However, while often being quite clear on the characteristics of the two processes ('Type 1' processes are fast, autonomous, intuitive, etc. and 'Type 2' processes are slow, deliberative, analytic, etc.), dual-process theorists have been heavily criticized for being unclear on the factors that determine when an individual will think analytically or rely on their intuition. We address this issue by introducing a three-stage model that elucidates the bottom-up factors that cause individuals to engage Type 2 processing. According to the model, multiple Type 1 processes may be cued by a stimulus (Stage 1), leading to the potential for conflict detection (Stage 2). If successful, conflict detection leads to Type 2 processing (Stage 3), which may take the form of rationalization (i.e., the Type 1 output is verified post hoc) or decoupling (i.e., the Type 1 output is falsified). We tested key aspects of the model using a novel base-rate task where stereotypes and base-rate probabilities cued the same (non-conflict problems) or different (conflict problems) responses about group membership. Our results support two key predictions derived from the model: (1) conflict detection and decoupling are dissociable sources of Type 2 processing and (2) conflict detection sometimes fails. We argue that considering the potential stages of reasoning allows us to distinguish early (conflict detection) and late (decoupling) sources of analytic thought. Errors may occur at both stages and, as a consequence, bias arises from both conflict monitoring and decoupling failures.


Michael K. Scullin | Mark A. McDaniel | Jill Talley Shelton

The ability to remember to execute delayed intentions is referred to as prospective memory. Previous theoretical and empirical work has focused on isolating whether a particular prospective memory task is supported either by effortful monitoring processes or by cue-driven spontaneous processes. In the present work, we advance the Dynamic Multiprocess Framework, which contends that both monitoring and spontaneous retrieval may be utilized dynamically to support prospective remembering. To capture the dynamic interplay between monitoring and spontaneous retrieval, we had participants perform many ongoing tasks and told them that their prospective memory cue may occur in any context. Following either a 20-min or a 12-h retention interval, the prospective memory cues were presented infrequently across three separate ongoing tasks. The monitoring patterns (measured as ongoing task cost relative to a between-subjects control condition) were consistent and robust across the three contexts. There was no evidence for monitoring prior to the initial prospective memory cue; however, individuals who successfully spontaneously retrieved the prospective memory intention, thereby realizing that prospective memory cues could be expected within that context, subsequently monitored. These data support the Dynamic Multiprocess Framework, which contends that individuals will engage monitoring when prospective memory cues are expected, disengage monitoring when cues are not expected, and that when monitoring is disengaged, a probabilistic spontaneous retrieval mechanism can support prospective remembering. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.


Michael S. Vitevitch | Kit Ying Chan | Rutherford Goldstein

Previous network analyses of the phonological lexicon (Vitevitch, 2008) observed a web-like structure that exhibited assortative mixing by degree: words with dense phonological neighborhoods tend to have as neighbors words that also have dense phonological neighborhoods, and words with sparse phonological neighborhoods tend to have as neighbors words that also have sparse phonological neighborhoods. Given the role that assortative mixing by degree plays in network resilience, we examined instances of real and simulated lexical retrieval failures in computer simulations, analysis of a slips-of-the-ear corpus, and three psycholinguistic experiments for evidence of this network characteristic in human behavior. The results of the various analyses support the hypothesis that the structure of words in the mental lexicon influences lexical processing. The implications of network science for current models of spoken word recognition, language processing, and cognitive psychology more generally are discussed. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.


Eldad Yechiam | Guy Hochman

Losses were found to improve cognitive performance, and this has been commonly explained by increased weighting of losses compared to gains (i.e., loss aversion). We examine whether effects of losses on performance could be modulated by two alternative processes: an attentional effect leading to increased sensitivity to task incentives; and a contrast-related effect. Empirical data from five studies show that losses improve performance even when the enhanced performance runs counter to the predictions of loss aversion. In Study 1-3 we show that in various settings, when an advantageous option produces large gains and small losses, participants select this alternative at a higher rate than when it does not produce losses. Consistent with the joint influence of attention and contrast-related processes, this effect is smaller when a disadvantageous alternative produces the losses. In Studies 4 and 5 we find a positive effect on performance even with no contrast effects (when a similar loss is added to all alternatives). These findings indicate that both attention and contrast-based processes are implicated in the effect of losses on performance, and that a positive effect of losses on performance is not tantamount to loss aversion. © 2013.


Patricia A. Reeder | Elissa L. Newport | Richard N. Aslin

A fundamental component of language acquisition involves organizing words into grammatical categories. Previous literature has suggested a number of ways in which this categorization task might be accomplished. Here we ask whether the patterning of the words in a corpus of linguistic input (distributional information) is sufficient, along with a small set of learning biases, to extract these underlying structural categories. In a series of experiments, we show that learners can acquire linguistic form-classes, generalizing from instances of the distributional contexts of individual words in the exposure set to the full range of contexts for all the words in the set. Crucially, we explore how several specific distributional variables enable learners to form a category of lexical items and generalize to novel words, yet also allow for exceptions that maintain lexical specificity. We suggest that learners are sensitive to the contexts of individual words, the overlaps among contexts across words, the non-overlap of contexts (or systematic gaps in information), and the size of the exposure set. We also ask how learners determine the category membership of a new word for which there is very sparse contextual information. We find that, when there are strong category cues and robust category learning of other words, adults readily generalize the distributional properties of the learned category to a new word that shares just one context with the other category members. However, as the distributional cues regarding the category become sparser and contain more consistent gaps, learners show more conservatism in generalizing distributional properties to the novel word. Taken together, these results show that learners are highly systematic in their use of the distributional properties of the input corpus, using them in a principled way to determine when to generalize and when to preserve lexical specificity. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.


Jasmin Sadat | Clara D. Martin | Albert Costa | F. Xavier Alario

A crucial step for understanding how lexical knowledge is represented is to describe the relative similarity of lexical items, and how it influences language processing. Previous studies of the effects of form similarity on word production have reported conflicting results, notably within and across languages. The aim of the present study was to clarify this empirical issue to provide specific constraints for theoretical models of language production. We investigated the role of phonological neighborhood density in a large-scale picture naming experiment using fine-grained statistical models. The results showed that increasing phonological neighborhood density has a detrimental effect on naming latencies, and re-analyses of independently obtained data sets provide supplementary evidence for this effect. Finally, we reviewed a large body of evidence concerning phonological neighborhood density effects in word production, and discussed the occurrence of facilitatory and inhibitory effects in accuracy measures. The overall pattern shows that phonological neighborhood generates two opposite forces, one facilitatory and one inhibitory. In cases where speech production is disrupted (e.g. certain aphasic symptoms), the facilitatory component may emerge, but inhibitory processes dominate in efficient naming by healthy speakers. These findings are difficult to accommodate in terms of monitoring processes, but can be explained within interactive activation accounts combining phonological facilitation and lexical competition. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.


Joseph J. Williams | Tania Lombrozo

How do explaining and prior knowledge contribute to learning? Four experiments explored the relationship between explanation and prior knowledge in category learning. The experiments independently manipulated whether participants were prompted to explain the category membership of study observations and whether category labels were informative in allowing participants to relate prior knowledge to patterns underlying category membership. The experiments revealed a superadditive interaction between explanation and informative labels, with explainers who received informative labels most likely to discover (Experiments 1 and 2) and generalize (Experiments 3 and 4) a pattern consistent with prior knowledge. However, explainers were no more likely than controls to discover multiple patterns (Experiments 1 and 2), indicating that effects of explanation are relatively targeted. We suggest that explanation recruits prior knowledge to assess whether candidate patterns are likely to have broad scope (i.e., to generalize within and beyond study observations). This interpretation is supported by the finding that effects of explanation on prior knowledge were attenuated when learners believed prior knowledge was irrelevant to generalizing category membership (Experiment 4). This research provides evidence that explanation can serve as a mechanism for deploying prior knowledge to assess the scope of observed patterns. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.


Patrick Shafto | Noah D. Goodman | Thomas L. Griffiths

Much of learning and reasoning occurs in pedagogical situations-situations in which a person who knows a concept chooses examples for the purpose of helping a learner acquire the concept. We introduce a model of teaching and learning in pedagogical settings that predicts which examples teachers should choose and what learners should infer given a teacher's examples. We present three experiments testing the model predictions for rule-based, prototype, and causally structured concepts. The model shows good quantitative and qualitative fits to the data across all three experiments, predicting novel qualitative phenomena in each case. We conclude by discussing implications for understanding concept learning and implications for theoretical claims about the role of pedagogy in human learning. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.


Susan A. Gelman | Natalie S. Davidson

One important function of categories is to permit rich inductive inferences. Prior work shows that children use category labels to guide their inductive inferences. However, there are competing theories to explain this phenomenon, differing in the roles attributed to conceptual information vs. perceptual similarity. Seven experiments with 4- to 5-year-old children and adults (N=344) test these theories by teaching categories for which category membership and perceptual similarity are in conflict, and varying the conceptual basis of the novel categories. Results indicate that for non-natural kind categories that have little conceptual coherence, children make inferences based on perceptual similarity, whereas adults make inferences based on category membership. In contrast, for basic- and ontological-level categories that have a principled conceptual basis, children and adults alike make use of category membership more than perceptual similarity as the basis of their inferences. These findings provide evidence in favor of the role of conceptual information in preschoolers' inferences, and further demonstrate that labeled categories are not all equivalent; they differ in their inductive potential. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.


William J. Matthews

This paper examines the judgment of segmented temporal intervals, using short tone sequences as a convenient test case. In four experiments, we investigate how the relative lengths, arrangement, and pitches of the tones in a sequence affect judgments of sequence duration, and ask whether the data can be described by a simple weighted sum of segments model. The model incorporates three basic assumptions: (i) the judgment of each segment is a negatively accelerated function of its duration, (ii) the judgment of the overall interval is produced by summing the judgments of each segment, and (iii) more recent segments are weighted more heavily. We also assume that higher-pitched tones are judged to last longer. Empirically, sequences with equal-sized segments were consistently judged longer than those with accelerating or decelerating structures. Furthermore, temporal structure interacted with duration, such that accelerating sequences were judged longer than decelerating ones at short durations but the effect reversed at longer durations. These effects were modulated by the number of tones in the sequence, the rate of acceleration/deceleration, and whether the sequence had ascending or descending pitch, and were well-described by the weighted sum model. The data provide strong constraints on theories of temporal judgment, and the weighted sum of segments model offers a useful basis for future theoretical and empirical investigation. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.


Rani Moran | Andrei R. Teodorescu | Marius Usher

© 2015 Elsevier Inc. Confidence judgments are pivotal in the performance of daily tasks and in many domains of scientific research including the behavioral sciences, psychology and neuroscience. Positive resolution i.e., the positive correlation between choice-correctness and choice-confidence is a critical property of confidence judgments, which justifies their ubiquity. In the current paper, we study the mechanism underlying confidence judgments and their resolution by investigating the source of the inputs for the confidence-calculation. We focus on the intriguing debate between two families of confidence theories. According to single stage theories, confidence is based on the same information that underlies the decision (or on some other aspect of the decision process), whereas according to dual stage theories, confidence is affected by novel information that is collected after the decision was made. In three experiments, we support the case for dual stage theories by showing that post-choice perceptual availability manipulations exert a causal effect on confidence-resolution in the decision followed by confidence paradigm. These finding establish the role of RT2, the duration of the post-choice information-integration stage, as a prime dependent variable that theories of confidence should account for. We then present a novel list of robust empirical patterns ('hurdles') involving RT2 to guide further theorizing about confidence judgments. Finally, we present a unified computational dual stage model for choice, confidence and their latencies namely, the collapsing confidence boundary model (CCB). According to CCB, a diffusion-process choice is followed by a second evidence-integration stage towards a stochastic collapsing confidence boundary. Despite its simplicity, CCB clears the entire list of hurdles.


Rolf Ulrich | Hannes Schröter | Hartmut Leuthold | Teresa Birngruber

© 2015 Elsevier Inc. An elaborated diffusion process model (a Diffusion Model for Conflict Tasks, DMC) is introduced that combines conceptual features of standard diffusion models with the notion of controlled and automatic processes. DMC can account for a variety of distributional properties of reaction time (RT) in conflict tasks (e.g., Eriksen flanker, Simon, Stroop). Specifically, DMC is compatible with all observed shapes of delta functions, including negative-going delta functions that are particularly challenging for the class of standard diffusion models. Basically, DMC assumes that the activations of controlled and automatic processes superimpose to trigger a response. Monte Carlo simulations demonstrate that the unfolding of automatic activation in time largely determines the shape of delta functions. Furthermore, the predictions of DMC are consistent with other phenomena observed in conflict tasks such as error rate patterns. In addition, DMC was successfully fitted to experimental data of the standard Eriksen flanker and the Simon task. Thus, the present paper reconciles the prominent and successful class of diffusion models with the empirical finding of negative-going delta functions.


Agnieszka E. Konopka | Antje S. Meyer

Sentence production requires mapping preverbal messages onto linguistic structures. Because sentences are normally built incrementally, the information encoded in a sentence-initial increment is critical for explaining how the mapping process starts and for predicting its timecourse. Two experiments tested whether and when speakers prioritize encoding of different types of information at the outset of formulation by comparing production of descriptions of transitive events (e.g., A dog is chasing the mailman) that differed on two dimensions: the ease of naming individual characters and the ease of apprehending the event gist (i.e., encoding the relational structure of the event). To additionally manipulate ease of encoding, speakers described the target events after receiving lexical primes (facilitating naming; Experiment 1) or structural primes (facilitating generation of a linguistic structure; Experiment 2). Both properties of the pictured events and both types of primes influenced the form of target descriptions and the timecourse of formulation: character-specific variables increased the probability of speakers encoding one character with priority at the outset of formulation, while the ease of encoding event gist and of generating a syntactic structure increased the likelihood of early encoding of information about both characters. The results show that formulation is flexible and highlight some of the conditions under which speakers might employ different planning strategies. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.


Marinella Cappelletti | Daniele Didino | Ivilin Stoianov | Marco Zorzi

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