PSY220, Thinking, Memory & Problem Solving, Fall 2017

Fall 2017 - Syllabus and Course Schedule

Psych. 220, Thinking, Memory & Problem Solving

Professor - Erik Nilsen

Section F1 Howard Hall Rm. 116

T, Th 9:40 - 11:10 a.m.

Textbook - Cognitive Psychology, 2nd Edition. E. Bruce Goldstein

*Companion Website with Chapter Quizzes, flashcards, and other course related information*

Moodle page for turning in assignments and course resources.

The purpose of this course is to provide you with an overview of the basics of cognitive psychology through coverage of cognitive neuroscience, attention and consciousness, perception, memory, knowledge representation, language, problem solving and creativity, decision making and reasoning. An additional goal is to engage in experiential learning which will give you insight into the complexities, foibles and potential of human thought.

Course Expectations and Assignments
This course does not presuppose an extensive background in psychology.  It is expected that you will (thoughtfully) read the material before the class session.  I also expect active participation in all class activities.  Attendance is expected at all class sessions and is essential for the days marked in BOLD in the daily schedule.  These are days where the emphasis will be on experiential learning which cannot be made up for in other ways. If you have a known conflict with any of these dates, talk with me at least two weeks in advance and alternative arrangements (read more work ; ^ ) can be made.


12 @ 18% cumulative. Chapter Quizzes

For each of the 12 chapters, take the online multiple choice quiz on the textbook companion website BEFORE class and e-mail your results to You can retake the quiz until you get them all correct, so this portion of the course you have complete control over! Taking these practice quizzes will also help you prepare for the exams so use them wisely and well. No credit will be given for late submissions.

3 @ 14% each.  Chapter Examinations

The exams in this class will consist of multiple choice, definitions and short essay questions taken from the textbook and lectures for the current section. Examinations are not cumulative.

2 @ 6% each.  "Real Life" Projects

Find something in popular culture (e.g. song lyrics, news, cartoon, television, film, art) or your personal experience that relates to a textbook topic we discuss in class and write a two - three page paper linking "real life" to textbook concepts. Only one project per chapter is permitted. The "find" must be original, not something presented in class or taken from another student. You will be graded on creativity, coherence and insight into the topic area that you show beyond the regurgitation of facts found in the textbook. Due dates are marked on the daily schedule. You will be presenting your projects orally to each other in small groups and turning in the written paper. Your grade will be determined by the peer feedback that you give and the instructors evaluation of your written work.

4 @ 6% each.  Laboratories in Thinking

These are the days marked in BOLD in the daily schedule.  Each day will be different and the evaluation will vary accordingly. Some labs will require advance preparation and gathering of resources on your part, some will involve collecting data from yourself and others using the CogLab Software that comes with the textbook. Each lab will have a writing assignment accompanying the day's activity. The common element is that experiential learning will be emphasized and active participation will be the order of the day. Your grade will depend on your engagement with the material, connections made to the textbook concepts and quality of your written reflection rather than performance on the "thinking tasks".

4%  Final Exam - Game Show Extravaganza

The final exam will be involve small groups working together to create a Psychology Themed Game Show using a portion of the textbooks. We will assign the groups during the last week of class and play the games during the exam period. Your grade will be determined by your level of participation both in the preparation for and the playing of the games. Each person will write a short description of how they contributed to the groups preparation and will turn in a copy of the questions/activities which they developed for the project. You will not be graded on your "point total" in the games.

Up to 2% Extra Credit Coglabs

You may choose to do up to 2 of the Coglab 2.0 experiments and write-ups that are not assigned in class for 1% extra credit for each one. (1) Do the lab, (2) turn in your your data along with a short essay explaining how your results match up with the expected results, and (3) answer the Basic and Advanced Questions that are provided in the Coglab 2.0 student manual that you will find on the class moodle page in a file named <CogLabStudentManual.pdf>. These assignments must be completed by Thursday, Dec. 14th and be turned in electronically to the class moodle site as MSWord attachments using the following naming convention (yourlastnameECpagenumber lab is found on in booklet.doc)

For example, If I am turning in the implicit learning lab found on page 123, my file would be NilsenEC123.doc

Fall 2017 Office Hours - Tuesday, Thursday 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m., Bio/Psych #236.
Office Phone: x-7657 (leave voice mail here), HCI Lab phone: x-7656.

I have an open door policy.  Feel free to drop in at other times.  If my door is open, I am available to chat. If it is closed, I am either gone or working on a project with a deadline.  Leave a message on my white board or with the departmental administrative assistant.

Day & Date


T Sept. 5

Introduction & Brain Calisthenics & Name Game

Th Sept. 7

Chapter 1. Introduction to Cognitive Psychology.

Special Topic - Lie Detection Skills and Technology (bring your 2 truths and a lie, ready to share)

Browse these APA Articles on Polygraph Validity, and Detecting Deception

T Sept. 12

Chapter 2. Cognition and the Brain: Basic Principles.

Brain Teaser:Scientists dissect the mystery of genius!

Interesting Interactive Demo of a Split Brain Experiment.

Learn about the Somatomotor Cortex and Probe the brain!

Odd and interesting Case Studies of Phantom Limb Syndrome.

Fascinating (but long) video of a technology assisted brain surgery with an awake patient that illustrates the normal function of Broca's area for speech production and the SomatoMotor Cortex.

Video of Split Brain Patient showing hemispheric specialization and what happens to brain communication when the corpus callosum is severed!

Th Sept. 14

Chapter 3. Perception.

Change Blindness Demo

Interactive Visual Illusions

Interesting Discussion of Simultagnosia and patient RM (mentioned in textbook)


Prosopagnosia Video shown in class.

T Sept. 19

Lab #1 Read the articles from the CogLab Reader (available on moodle)

Th Sept. 21

Chapter 4. Attention.    

T Sept. 26

Special Topic - Cognition involved in Video Gaming, The good, the bad, and the twitchy. Several interesting articles on positive benefits of video games (and Review for Exam)

Th Sept. 28

Exam over Chapters 1 - 4

T Oct. 3

Chapter 5. Short Term and Working Memory - part 1

Th Oct. 5

Chapter 5. Short Term and Working Memory - part 2

T Oct. 10

1st Real Life Project Presentations

TH Oct. 12

Chapter 6. Long Term Memory: Basic Principles

T Oct. 17

Chapter 7. Everyday Memory and Memory Errors.

Video Lectures on False Memory by Elizabeth Loftus

Th Oct. 19

Lab #2

T Oct. 24

Chapter 8. Knowledge

Th Oct. 26

Chapter 8. Knowledge Related Lewis & Clark Research Introduction to Neural Network approach to Cognition

T Oct. 31

Exam over Chapters 5 - 8

Th Nov. 2

 Chapter 9. Visual Imagery

T Nov. 7

Chapter 10. Language

TH Nov. 9

Lab #3

T Nov. 14

11. Problem Solving

Before class, play the Missionary and Cannibals game and write down the sequence of moves that you use to try to solve it. How many moves does it take you to solve it? What strategies did you adopt? What moves were the most difficult to come up with?

English Explanation and link to very tricky RiverIQgame that is a harder version of the Calvin and Hobbes. We will discuss this in class as an isomorphic problem to the "Hobbits and Orcs" problem on pg. 398 of our text.

Here is a historical and cross cultural perspective on this classic problem!

Th Nov. 16

2nd Real Life Project Presentations

T Nov. 21

Ketchup Day

Th Nov. 23

Thanksgiving Break

T Nov. 28

Chapter 12. Reasoning and Decision Making Part 1 (Bayesian and Deductive Reasoning)


TH Nov. 30

Chapter 12. Reasoning and Decision Making Part 2 (Inductive Reasoning & Prospect Theory)

APA article Describing Jerusha and Brian's work on Framing of Health Related Messages.

Download the Actual Research Paper. Message Framing and Sunscreen Use: Gain-Framed Messages Motivate Beach-Goers

T Dec. 5

Lab #4 - Hi Q Games to Stretch your Intellect

Creativity Training with Ball of Whacks!

Set Card Game - Has won several High IQ game awards, we will play it low tech style!

Th Dec. 7

Exam over Chapters 9 - 12

T Dec. 12 Brainstorm and Plan Game Show Extravaganza

Game Show Extravaganza!!

Friday, December 15th 8:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Online Resources

Anagram Generator

20 questions Artificial Intelligence

NASA Cognition Lab Memory Games

Brain Fingerprinting! Proceed with Caution 8^) 60 minutes video clip on Brain Fingerprinting

Nat. Acad. of Science Report on Lie Detection and Brain Activity

Brief Neuroimaging Primer

NeurImaging Links and examples

Pinky and the Brain sing Parts of the Brain Song!

Fascinating Discussion of Visual Neglect caused by Neurological Impairment

Online Demo of Stroop Effect

Online Tutorial on Monocular Depth Cues and Art

Amazmg InteractiveVisual Illusion Site has some good information on using several Mnemonic techniques

Links to THE MIND, and THE BRAIN videos used in class (Rajan Mahadevan, Clive Wearing etc.)

Must join (free) to view videos

Amazing Demonstration of "Photographic" Memory by autistic artist Stephen Wiltshire and some people trying to explain it (but not very convincingly!)

McGurk 1 - McGurk 2

RiverIQ Game for the Masochistic

A gentle introduction to Bayes Reasoning to make better informed medical, scientific, and legal decisions.

Interesting Variations on Wason Selection Task

Fascinating studies on Mind Wandering impacts on Attention, Memory and Creativity and even Happiness!


Cell Phones and Driving Data




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