• University of York

Introduction to Cognitive Psychology: An Experimental Science

Learn how to use cognitive psychology experiments to explore how the mind works with this online psychology course.

28,630 enrolled on this course

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Introduction to Cognitive Psychology: An Experimental Science

28,630 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Conduct, analyse and understand cognitive psychology experiments

Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of internal mental processes. On this 3-week course, you will be introduced to two key areas of cognitive psychology: reasoning and thinking, and mental imagery.

Explore cognitive psychology as an experimental science

You’ll begin by studying how the mind works and learning why cognitive psychology is an experimental science. From the psychology of thinking and reasoning to the psychology of imagination and visual thinking, you’ll gain a strong introduction to cognitive psychology.

We’ll discuss how to measure the mind and think like a scientist before exploring the numerical rule and confirmation bias.

Learn to build experiments and discover mental rotation and mental imagery

In the second week, you’ll learn how to run an experiment, collect data, and understand the science behind memory and behaviour through experiments.

You’ll also learn how to carry out memory studies, after exploring the notion of mental imagery and how it can inform us about the inner workings of the mind.

Finally, you’ll delve into experimental work on mental maps, mental scanning and mental rotation.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds How can you study the Mind? Why do people make errors in judgment, like falling for internet scams? Do we think with pictures? The University of York brings you this short online course on… Cognitive Psychology, the area of psychology that tries to understand how we think, reason and remember. We will introduce you to this experimental Science and you’ll learn about the methods that we use to study these mental processes. In fact you’ll set up and run your own simple experiments. You also find out what those methods have taught us about how we solve problems and make judgments in the real world and also how and indeed if we think in mental images.

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 seconds In this course we’ll try to answer questions around this fascinating area. How can we study something as subjective as the workings of the mind? What methods can we use to study how we think and remember? What is the psychology behind our common mistakes and bias in our thinking and judgment? Can Psychology help us avoid simple everyday errors? Do we think with images? Can these “mental images” help us solve problems? What do we know about how the mind hold images from the real world? Join us as we try to answer these questions and take your first steps in the exciting world of the study of the mind.


  • Week 1

    An introduction to Cognitive Psychology as an experimental science

    • Setting the scene

      Welcome and introductory remarks

    • The science of cognitive psychology

      How is it possible to study the mind via experiments?

    • Building our own experiments

      Here we introduce basic experimental design

    • Week 1: Class experiment

      Here we provide details of the first class experiment.

    • Week 1: Rounding up

      Here we provide a quiz of the material, some key references, and some concluding comments that round off the first week.

  • Week 2

    Thinking and reasoning

    • Logic and reasoning

      We begin by considering logical reasoning and we will explore how naturally people reason logically. You may find the answers to be surprising and perhaps a little unsettling!

    • Thinking logically is only part of the story

      Up until now we have been purely focused on logical reasoning and drawing valid conclusions from claims and evidence. As you might have gathered, however, there is far more to human reasoning than this.

    • Two modes of thinking?

      Yes another question that has cropped up in discussions of human reasoning is whether there is a single reasoning system or two different systems of reasoning. Here we introduce such so-called 'dual systems of reasoning.

    • It matters how problems present themselves

      A recurrent theme this week (and it may strike some as being obvious) is that our reasoning can be heavily influenced by the manner in which claims and evidence are presented.

    • Week 2: Class experiment

      In this week's class experiment we intend to collect data on a classic thinking task known as the Wason Card Selection Task - a task that taps into our ability to reason deductively.

    • Week 2: Rounding up

      Here we bring Week 2 to a close by providing a quiz, some references and reading suggestions, and by making some concluding remarks.

  • Week 3

    What does mental imagery reveal about how the mind works?

    • Foundations

      Welcome to third and final week of the course. This week, in moving forward, we will focus on how the study of visualisation and mental imagery has more generally informed our understanding of how the mind works.

    • The experimental approach to studying visual thinking

      Having considered some of the basic issues about mental representation, we can now move on to consider some of the key relevant experimental work that reflects on this.

    • Mental rotation

      Whichever textbook you consult on Cognitive Psychology you are bound to come across “mental rotation”. This topic is central to any discussion of thinking visually and it to this that we now turn.

    • Week 3: Class experiment

      We have covered quite a bit of ground and now it is time to put some of our ideas to experimental test.

    • Week 3: Rounding up

      We are about to draw the course to a close and here we reflect on what we have covered this week and, more generally, what ground we have covered since the start of the course.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

If you'd like to take part while our educators are leading the course, they'll be joining the discussions, in the comments, between these dates:

  • 8 Jul 2024 - 28 Jul 2024

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate an understanding of how the mind can be studied in a scientific way using experiments
  • Develop your knowledge of the psychology of reasoning and thinking
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of the psychology of mental imagery
  • Perform a simple experiment in cognitive psychology

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in the workings of the mind and how to study this through experiments. It would be suitable for learners interested in experimental science, especially those who wish to further their knowledge of different areas of psychology.

This course will be of specific interest to A-level students who are considering studying Psychology at university, and in particular those thinking of applying to study degree level Psychology at the University of York.

This course will also benefit those already working in the healthcare sector who want to deepen their understanding of current practices and theories in psychology.

Who will you learn with?

I am an experimental cognitive psychologist who has spent all his working life at various universities in the UK. I am passionate about cognitive psychology and hope that you will soon learn why.

Who developed the course?

University of York

The University of York combines the pursuit of academic excellence with a culture of inclusion, which encourages everyone – from a variety of backgrounds – to achieve their best.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$109/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 10 Jul 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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