Psy440: Cognitive Psychology

Spring 2018

Instructor:  Dr. Matt Rossano 
Office: Mims Hall 219
Office Hrs:
MW 11-12; 12:50-1:50; TTh 2-4; Friday 9:30-11:30
Phone: 985-351-3663 email: 
email: (note: all email communication should be done using your university assigned address). Email is the best way to get in touch with me. I habitually check my emails daily.
Email provides a written record of our interaction, which protects us both if there are misunderstandings or accusations later. Plus, I still can't figure out how to check my phone messages!

Required Text: Radvansky & Ashcraft (2014) Cognition. Pearson Publishing

Other Readings: Right now I don't plan to have readings other than the text. However, if any additional readings are assigned, they will be posted on my webpage.

     In cognitive psychology we tear apart a number of processes that most of us take for granted.  We ask questions like:  why do you pay attention to some things in the environment and ignore others?  How much information do you obtain in a brief glance at an object?  What factors determine whether you will respond to a stimulus or not?  Why am I able to recognize someone's face but not recall their name?  Many of these things you may never have considered in detail.  However, psychologists have, and the results make up the area of psychology that we call cognitive psychology:  the study of thinking and mental processes. 
     This course assumes an information processing approach to human thinking.  That means that the course of human thought processes can be broken down into a series of sub-stages and at each sub-stage a different aspect of an over-all problem is being addressed.  This is in many ways analogous to a computer program, where there are routines and sub-routines within an over-all program written to make the computer solve some specific task. 
     In cognitive psychology we will take a step-by-step approach, looking first at the stage of detection of a sensory stimulus, attending to a sensory signal, remembering and retrieving a stimulus, and even forgetting a stimulus.  Many of these processes take place so quickly, automatically, and frequently that we rarely consider them in our day to day activities.

     There will be three tests and a cumulative final given through the course of the term.  Each test will cover three or four chapters in the text. The tests will be multiple choice and there will be 55-65 questions on each (the final will have more).  You need to bring #2 pencils on test days, as well as the Scantron forms with 50 questions per side.  Don't forget!  I might neglect to remind you of this. Also, if you bring the wrong scantron form I will take off at least 3 points!
     You are responsible for everything in the assigned chapters and any supplemental readings that I might hand out.  You will find that my lectures serve to highlight and (to some extent) expand on the basic concepts presented in the book.  However, I will not lecture on everything presented in the book, and not everything I lecture on will be presented in the book.  Any of this is fair game for the tests!  However, most -- not all --but most, of the tests will cover those items discussed in the book and discussed in lecture.  By my estimation about 70-75% of the test questions come from the lecture/text overlapping material. There are a few basic principles that   I consider the most important and that's what I will concentrate my efforts on to the greatest extent.  The first 3 tests are not cumulative; however, the final will be, i.e. the final covers everything!

Syllabus validation assignment: All students are required to verify that they have read and understood the syllabus. This is a required assignment that counts for 5 points toward your final grade. Instructions for completing the assignment can be found at the end of the syllabus.

Course Grades: 
     On each test you will be accumulating points.  Each test is worth as many points as there are questions.  I grade on a relative scale.  This means that at the end of the semester I total up the points that each student received on all four tests.  The student with the top number of points receives an "A" and sets the top of the scale.  I then take 93% of that top score and all other scores that are equal to or greater than that also get an "A".  I then take 85% of the top score and all students who are equal to or greater than that get a "B", and so forth (78% for C's, 70% for D's).  There is no absolute scale, it is all relative to students' performance on tests.   

Because I do not calculate grades until the end of the semester, I do not know what your grade is during the course of the term, or what you "need" on a given test to get a certain grade. As far as I’m concerned you always “need” to get as many points on each and every test as you are capable of getting. Just do your best! Here is the best way to keep track of how you are doing during the course of the semester.  After each test, I will post your score and the high score for that test on Moodle. Write these numbers down (your score and the high score) and keep track of them throughout the semester.  If you take your total score and divide it by the high total you will get a proportion which indicates where you stand relative to the rest of the class.  Compare that proportion to the scale used to assign grades.

So here's an example: (which, by the way, I also demonstrated in class the first day!). Suppose you get a 43 on test 1 and a 50 on test 2 and the high scores for tests 1 and 2 were 52 and 55 respectively. Then your total to that point in the semester would be 43+50=93 and the high total would be 52+55=107. So you're grade would be: 93/107=.89 or B. 

Make-up tests: 
    See Psychology Department Information Sheet (
Make-ups are given by the department in White Hall, Room 208, on Thursdays from 3:30:4:45. My make-up tests consist of 5 essay questions that must be answered within a one hour fifteen minute time period. Most students would prefer to not to have to take this type of a test, therefore I encourage you to take the tests when they are scheduled. You must bring your own paper and pen to make ups. If you write on my sheet with the test questions on it I will take off at least 5pts!

To take a make-up you must inform me beforehand that you are going to miss a test or you must contact me promptly after the missed test. 
By "promptly" I mean by the next class meeting.  So, for example, if we have a test on a Monday (Tuesday), then you will have until class time on Wednesday (Thursday) to contact me (class time means when the class starts!). If I do not hear from you by the next class meeting immediately following the missed test, I will not allow you to take a make-up.  You may see me personally, or you may call (leave message at the main office), fax (549-3892) or email (email in best). One way or another I must hear from you by the next class meeting or I will not allow a make-up.  Look folks, you can save us both a world of pain if you just show up when you are supposed to and take the tests.

 Class Outline







 syllabus; chap. 1

Intro to Cognition




Cognitive Neuroscience




Cog. Neuro; Sensation & Perception




S&P; Attention


*Off for Mardi Gras 2/12-14

Test 1 will be Weds Feb. 21, chps1-4. (syllabus verification assignment due at this time) 












Learning and Remembering


Test 2 will be Monday March 19, chpts 5-7.








Using Knowledge









Off 3/30-4/6 for Spring Break

Test 3 will be Monday April 16, chpts 8-10 








Deciding & Reasoning



11& 12

Reasoning & Problem Solving

 Problem Solving


The Final Exam is Monday May 7 at 10:15
(about 45% from material covered from Test 3-end; about 55% from previously covered material)

Final is given in the classroom. 

Important Dates:

Thursday, February 15

Monday, February 19

Monday, March 26

Thursday, April 26

Now that you have finished reading the syllabus you need to do the following to get the required 5 points for the syllabus and policy validation assignment: 
(1) Login to the Moodle site for this class

(2) Click on course syllabus and policy statements links and read everything
(3) Click on course syllabus and policy statements validation link and confirm that you read and understood everything
(4) Save it

Note: As of Spring 2017 all the policy information below is being posted by the University on all course Moodle sites, click on Policy Statement on the Course Information tab. So After Spring 2017 the information below will not be updated. Go to the Moodle site for this course and click on Policy Statements for the latest on all this information and for Important Dates.

Disabled students: If you are a qualified student with a disability seeking accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are required to self-identify with the Office of Disability Services, Student Union, Room 1304. No accommodations will be granted without documentation from the Office of Disability Services. The deadline for registering or making accommodation changes is two weeks prior to the start of the Final Exam period. Any requests received after the deadline will generally be considered for the following semester.

Children in the classroom: By university policy children are not permitted in the classroom. Students are not to bring family members for day care or babysitting.

Attendance: I do take attendance for every class as is required by University policy.  However, do not count on me to drop you for non-attendance.  It is the responsibility of the student to drop this class if it is his/her desire to do so.

Academic integrity: 
Students are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic integrity. Behavior that violates these standards is not acceptable. Examples are the use of unauthorized material, communication with fellow students during an examination, attempting to benefit from the work of another student and similar behavior that defeats the intent of an examination or other class work. Cheating on examinations, plagiarism, improper acknowledgment of sources in essays and the use of a single essay or paper in more than one course without permission are considered very serious offenses and shall be grounds for disciplinary action as outlined in the current General Catalogue.

Students agree by taking this course that all required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity to VeriCite for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers will be included as source documents in the VeriCite reference database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of such papers. Use of the VeriCite service is subject to the Terms of Use posted on the VeriCite website.

In class behavior: any behavior that inhibits the ability of the instructor to teach or fellow students to benefit from that instruction will not be tolerated.  Therefore no uncivil or disruptive behavior will be permitted in class.  Furthermore, no beepers, cell phones, or other noise-making electronic devices may be brought to class unless prior approval has been given by the instructor.

Sexual misconduct statement: If you are the victim of a sexually oriented crime, please be aware that the University Policy regarding Victims of Sexual Misconduct is located online at as well as at page 68 in the University Student Handbook at  The policy includes definitions of the various sexually oriented offenses prohibited by Southeastern as well as the reporting options for victims and the process of investigation and disciplinary proceedings of the university. For more information log onto