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Cognitive psychology

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How does memory work? How do we understand language? How do we think? These are just some of the questions related to everyday experience you’ll address on this course. Beginning with core topics – perception and attention; categorisation and language; and memory, thinking and reasoning – you’ll then explore wider issues, such as emotion and consciousness, topics that have presented a challenge to the cognitive approach. Throughout, you’ll be asked to examine theories, evidence and arguments as well as the methods of cognitive psychology, including neuropsychology and neuroimaging. Using a computer, you’ll also be guided through techniques of data analysis and experimentation, and will engage in your own project work.

Modules at Level 3 assume that you are suitably prepared for study at this level. If you want to take a single module to satisfy your career development needs or pursue particular interests, you don’t need to start at Level 1 but you do need to have adequately prepared yourself for OU study in some other way. Check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service to make sure that you are sufficiently prepared.

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Start End Fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015
£1290.00
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Registration opens on 30/04/14

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015
£1290.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015
£2140.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015
£1290.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015
£1290.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015
£1980.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015
£2632.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015
£2632.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015
£1290.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.
Start End Fee Register
31 Jan 2015 Oct 2015
£2632.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

See below for information about part time tuition fee loans available for study towards a qualification.

February 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

*Fees may vary by country.

What you will study

Many of the topics studied by cognitive psychologists concern aspects of our everyday experience that we often take for granted. Yet these topics can present significant challenges to our understanding of human psychology.

The course is divided into five main parts, all of which are covered in the main course text. The first four develop some of the principal areas of investigation in cognitive psychology, and raise fundamental questions about human minds and behaviour. The last part looks at some of the topics that challenge the cognitive approach.

The first part introduces the cognitive approach to psychology – the approach of trying to understand the workings of the mind in terms of processing information – and considers how we perceive aspects of our immediate environment, how we pay attention to certain things and not others, and how we manage to recognise objects and people.

The second part is devoted to memory, especially on how what we may think of as ‘memory’ is actually composed of many different kinds of memory, each with different properties. The section explores immediate memories, such as how we remember a phone number for long enough to write it down to autobiographical memories, our personal record that stretches across a lifetime.

The third part of the course focuses on language, both how we as individuals process language, and how those processes differ when language is used in a social context, such as a conversation. It also considers how we use language to categorise objects and explores the rich interaction between language and thought.

The fourth part of the course focuses on thinking, that is, on how we reason, how we make judgements and come to decisions, and how we set about solving problems.

Finally, the fifth part of the course focuses more explicitly on topics that have often been seen as presenting direct challenges to the cognitive approach – the topics of emotion and consciousness. This part also examines how cognitive psychology can be applied in different contexts, in assessing the accuracy of eyewitness testimony in forensic settings and in understanding what is meant by “intelligence”. This section not only links different aspects of cognitive psychology but also illustrates how different areas of psychology, cognitive, social, developmental etc. can be used together.

Throughout, the course indicates the close links between the topics studied by cognitive psychologists and our everyday experience and how cognitive psychological ideas and insight might apply in the wider world.

Although the course topics are divided roughly into five parts, there are a number of strands of cognitive psychology which are developed in parallel throughout the course, and which link to the various methods used by cognitive psychologists.

Experimentation is a key method, and throughout the course you will develop skills associated with designing, running and analysing experiments. You will have the opportunity to gain insight into different experimental techniques by participating in a number of experimental studies. For your assignments you will learn how to run an experiment using specialist software (on CD-ROM), how to modify experimental designs, how to collect data from participants and how to organise the data in preparation for analysis. You will learn how to develop a design for a study from a hypothesis and a body of literature, and to consider some of the relevant practical and ethical issues in running this study. Finally, at the residential school (or the ALE if you are unable to attend the residential school) you will put all this knowledge to use in developing and running an experimental project that you have designed yourself – with a little help from your tutor.

Allied to experimentation, a key skill for cognitive psychologists is how to convey the essence of an experimental investigation in a project report. Your assignments will develop this skill, culminating in the write-up of the residential school (or ALE) project in a way that matches conventional journal standards.

The analysis of experimental data is another key skill, and the course highlights a number of techniques for analysing data that relate to the project work. You will learn to use specialist software (on CD-ROM) to analyse data and to present and interpret the results.

A number of other key methods are also explored in the course, including those that relation what happens in the brain to our cognitive processes. Cognitive neuropsychology investigates how studying people who have experienced brain damage can help us understand the relationship between brain and behaviour. While neuroimaging techniques allow us to track brain activity as participants engage in cognitive tasks, experimental work with human participants raises complex methodological issues and ethical questions that are considered in depth. The course also introduces examples of how computers can be used to model and simulate cognitive processes in a variety of areas from face recognition to understanding language.

In sum, the course:

  • develops the core content areas of cognitive psychology, focusing on topics within the areas of perception, attention and memory, and thinking and language
  • presents key debates, issues and controversies with which a cognitive psychological approach engages
  • illustrates how cognitive psychology can provide an underpinning for applied psychological research
  • shows how different methods are integrated within cognitive psychology, including experimental studies, neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies, and cognitive modelling
  • offers a sound grounding in experimental and statistical methods used in cognitive psychological research
  • provides the experience of conducting a substantive piece of empirical research.

Vocational relevance

A knowledge of psychology is considered useful in professions ranging from marketing to personnel work. An understanding of research techniques and statistical methods is also a sought-after skill, with relevance outside the immediate area of psychology. If you take DD303 as part of a complete set of psychology courses, such that you can gain professional recognition, many kinds of psychological work may be open to you – the prison service, educational psychology, applied (workplace) psychology, for example – although many professions require further, postgraduate training.

Residential school

The one-week compulsory residential school is devoted to independent project work and to consolidation and more in-depth exploration of the course topics. Prior to the school, you will be offered a range of project topics. Some of these will involve using a computer to control experiments, but there will also be project options that do not require this kind of computer use. You will conduct a project under the close supervision of tutors, and technical support will also be available. Your project will form the basis of a compulsory assignment submitted after the residential school. Though the project work forms the central feature of the residential school, time will also be devoted to discussing different aspects of the course, learning about particular areas in more depth, revision of topics, and preparation for future assignments and the examination. The school also provides an excellent opportunity to learn and discuss with other students, and to meet and engage with tutors and members of the course team. 

The one-week residential school will run over four dates in July.

The cost of accommodation and meals at the residential school for this course starting in January 2014 is included in the fee shown above.

Alternative Learning Experience (ALE)

If it is impossible for you to attend the Residential School, you may apply to undertake the Alternative Learning Experience (ALE). The ALE is modelled on the format of the residential school project. Prior to the ALE, you will be offered a range of project topics. Most project options will not involve the use of a computer to control experiments. You will conduct a project under the close supervision of tutors, given principally using electronic conferencing. Some limited technical support will also be available via electronic conferencing. Your project will form the basis of a compulsory assignment submitted after the ALE.

You must satisfactorily participate in either the Residential School or the ALE to gain credit for the course.

The ALE begins after the summer school ends and runs for three weeks, requiring a minimum of a couple of hours a day, every day. You will need to have access to a computer and the internet during the whole of this period.

Entry

This is a Level 3 course. Level 3 courses build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at Levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject. 

You are strongly advised to have previously taken an introductory psychology course, such as our Level 2 course Exploring psychology (DSE212). You will be expected to write clear, well-structured essays demonstrating the ability to compare and assess different theoretical perspectives. You will also be expected, with guidance, to carry out and write up reports of practical projects.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

Before you begin the course, you may like to read Cognitive Psychology: A Student's Handbook by Michael W. Eysenck and Mark T. Keane (Psychology Press).

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of the printed study materials are available, although some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. The printed study material is available in comb bound format. The printed study materials are also available as audio in the DAISY Digital Talking Book format. Transcripts are available for any audio-visual material. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability of alternative formats.

You may find it beneficial to have the assistance of a helper with some of the projects and experiments conducted at home, and in the Alternative Learning Experience (ALE). The ALE is modelled on the format of the residential school week and takes place over a period of three weeks, requiring a minimum of a couple of hours a day, every day. Project work at residential school, which provides the opportunity to work closely with tutors and other students, should not present a serious difficulty. Elements of this course are delivered online so if you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet and have concerns about accessing this type of material you are advised to talk to the Student Registration & Enquiry Service about support which can be given to meet your needs. After you have registered you will receive detailed information about the residential school site and the facilities available to help with the academic programme. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • residential school arrangements, including the support and equipment available
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

Course books, other printed materials, CD-ROMs, website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this course. It includes online activities – you can access using a web browser – and some course software provided on disk.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer running Windows since 2007 you should have no problems completing the computer-based activities.
  • A netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device is not suitable for this course – check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you have an Apple Mac or Linux computer – please note that you can only use it for this course by running Windows on it using Boot Camp or a similar dual-boot system.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the course.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this course can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Three of the TMAs address different aspects of project work; three involve writing essays. 

Future availability

The details given here are for the course that starts in February 2015 when it will be available for the last time.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Student Reviews

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Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code DD303
Credits 60
OU Level 3
SCQF level 10
FHEQ level 6
Course work includes:
6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
Examination
Includes residential school

Course satisfaction survey

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