Doctoral training in experimental psychology prepares the student for an academic career in teaching and research. It offers concentrations in developmental psychology, adulthood and aging, cognitive psychology, mental retardation research, and social psychology. Faculty members help students develop flexible programs of study, according to individual interests.
The program provides the students with strong bases in general psychology and research design and analysis in specific interest areas. Research training is a major component and follows an apprenticeship mode. At the beginning of the program, the student works with one or more faculty members and collaborates on research with them. Through the affiliation with active contributors, the student is involved in the important questions and major methodologies of that area. Experimental students usually complete teir studies within four years. Below are descriptions of the different concentrations available to Experimental students.
The emphasis in developmental psychology focuses on the emergence and maturation of basic psychological processes - perception, learning, memory, language and cognition from birth through adolescence. In addition to core courses, students take a number of advanced seminars intended to deepen their knowledge in such areas as childhood psychopathology, comparative development, and family interaction. Students also are given didactic instruction and supervised experience in testing to acquaint them with a variety of methods and techniques for research assessment of children.
A variety of laboratory facilities and subject populations are available. The department maintains an extensive Perceptual Developmental Laboratory studying developmental aspects of learning, cognition, and language acquisition. Other settings used for experimental child study include the Mental Developmental Center, newborn nurseries at University Hospitals, and the Perinatal Research Unit at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. The department also has a strong working relationship with area public and private schools, and residential facilities and sheltered workshops for the mentally retarded. These provide a large subject pool of normal children, as well as patient groups of various ages.
Adulthood is marked by continuing interplay of stability and change. The foci of this area of emphasis is assessment and description of these periods as they are reflected in the sensory, perceptual, cognitive, and social domains of a person's life.
With the support of the National Institute on Aging, Perception Lab activities aim to assess, describe, and understand the changes which occur in perception as a result of the normal adult aging process and senile dementia of the Alzheimer's type. A variety of methodologies and approaches from psychophysics and visual information processing are used. The subject populations are primarily young (18-30 years) and older (>60 years) adults and individuals diagnosed with senile dementia of the Alzheimer's type. The laboratory is well equipped to conduct sophisticated research in many areas. Equipment includes tachistoscopes with associated apparatus for the timing of responses, a photometer for the accurate measurement of luminance, and microcomputer controlled devices for the determination of contrast and temporal sensitivity functions. Sophisticated image engineering hardware and software, and a number of microcomputers aid in conducting experiments, analyzing data, and processing text.
The NIA also supports the Perception Lab in an extensive research program concerned with psychopathology in Alzheimer's disease, especially depression, sleep and activity disturbances and, more generally, emotional behavior and experience in people with dementia. Cognitive Psychology - Cognition refers to a large number of psychological processes, including perception, memory, imagery, reading, language, reasoning, and intelligence. At CWRU, research is done on several of these. Students can carry out research relevant to formulating general principles of cognition and to determining the bases of individual and group differences in cognitive abilities. Memory is of particular interest. One line of research focuses on the structure of human episodic memory -- people's knowledge that events happen to them at a particular time and place. Recall, recognition, and frequency estimation tests often are used. The goal is to test and construct theories of general memory functioning in humans.
A second line of research focuses on the relationship between cognitive development and metacognitive knowledge in both normal and learning disabled children. The research was designed to identify more precisely the cognitive processes responsible for school failure and develop intervention strategies specifically tailored to the processing deficits exhibited. Primary interests include reading and memory.
Why do people vary so much in their behavior? What factors determine these differences? Recent technological advances provide powerful tools to study potential biological contributions to these differences.
Ongoing research projects involve molecular genetic approaches for explaining individual differences in intelligence, cognitive processing, and temperament. Quantitative genetic studies using twins are being conducted on temperament, cognition, and speech disorders. Electroencephalogram (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) also are being used to study the brain at work in normal adults and children, and in special populations including patients with Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia.
This emphasis is designed to train students in the broad range of complex problems of mental retardation and to prepare them for academic research and teaching positions. Graduates of this program will have a thorough grasp of basic and applied literature in intelligence theory and mental retardation, as well as in the major areas of psychology. They also will be knowledgeable in research methodology, have experience applying it, and have a more comprehensive perspective of research in this area than is traditional. Students also will be conversant in assessment and intervention used in this field.
In addition to the research clerkship, thesis and dissertation required of all students, research requirements for the Mental Retardation Program include a review paper which students complete during their first year. This provides an introduction to mental retardation research, and to the area in which the student plans to complete his or her Master's thesis. When trainees enter, each is assigned a research adviser and assists that person until graduation.
The Mental Retardation Research Laboratory receives training support from the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development. The grant provides full tuition support and a monthly stipend for four graduate students each year. Current work concentrates on assessment of the mentally retarded using basic cognitive tasks, and on the use of these assessment measures to develop educational interventions. Research also is being conducted on computer-assisted instruction for mentally retarded and normal subject populations. The laboratory contains multiple microcomputers plus a wide assortment of peripheral devices, including touch screens and voice synthesizers.