Cognitive Psychology PhD

Interested in Studying Cognitive Psychology?

Binghamton University's program in Cognitive Psychology offers intense research experience throughout the student's graduate training. During the first several years, coursework appropriate to the student's field of interest is emphasized and specialized seminars are available throughout the student's graduate career.

The extensive network of collaborative research projects among our own laboratories and those located both nationally and internationally is just one of the beneficial aspects of Binghamton University. Designed to foster collegiality and cooperation among researchers, our program supports collaborative research within our Department, as well as with other programs at Binghamton University and at other institutions.

Our graduate programs in psychology consistently rank within the top 100 every year at the area level and are ranked within the top 25 doctoral programs at "Public Ivies." Here at Binghamton University, however, our ultimate marker of success is the excellent placement of our graduate students in the job market following their PhD. With a 96 percent employment rate immediately following completion of their degree, 61 percent of our graduates seek post-doctoral training (consistent with current national trends). Of our graduates who have secured long-term employment immediately after completion of our programs, 41 percent attain visiting assistant or tenure-track assistant professorships, 41 percent secure full-time applied/clinical research positions and 18 percent report non-academic research positions. These placements include positions at such competitive institutions as Cornell University, Montefiore Medical Center, Brown University, Medical University of South Carolina, University of Lausanne (Switzerland), University of British Columbia (Canada), the National Institutes of Health, the United States Air Force and many others. Taken together, this suggests that our programs produce top-tier students who are able to successfully compete at world-class institutions.

An Innovative Program of Study

The Cognitive Psychology Program prepares students for employment in academic settings, research institutes and positions in the private sector. Our program has a strong research emphasis with a primary goal to educate scientists via the development of critical thinking, research competence and theory construction and evaluation.

The best way to learn about our program is to visit the department and faculty laboratories and observe firsthand. We have excellent resources, a congenial group of faculty and graduate students working together and exciting research projects that are best appreciated in person. If it is possible for you to do so, we would welcome your visit after you apply. Notify us in advance of your visit to make sure that the faculty with whom you would like to speak will be available.

Area coordinator: Peter Gerhardstein, PhD

Cognitive Psychology Admission Information

To formally apply to a graduate program at Binghamton University, you must complete an application recommended by December 10; however, applications will be accepted until December 31. Please follow the directions on how to apply described on the Graduate School website.

Admission to the graduate program is selective, which allows faculty to devote a great deal of individual attention to each of our students. Admission is based on: 

  • Academic performance as an undergraduate
  • Official GRE scores: optional, but encouraged
  • Letters of recommendation (extremely important)

Admissions decisions are also based on the fit between the research interests of a particular faculty member and those of the applicant. Preference is given to students with a clear research interest that matches that of a faculty member in the area. However, students are permitted to change laboratories should their research interests change, and collaboration across labs within the department and with labs in other departments is both permitted and encouraged.

Cognitive Psychology Degree Requirements

The Department-wide graduate degree requirements and courses for the psychology program are listed in the University Bulletin. Specific requirements for the Cognitive Psychology program are linked below.

Cognitive Psychology Degree Requirements

Additional information on Master's Degree Procedures

Cognitive Psychology Research Training

Research training is strongly emphasized in the Cognitive Psychology Program. Students initiate, execute and interpret independent projects under the guidance of their faculty advisors, with additional input from their Master's and Doctoral advisory committees. The entire Cognitive Psychology Area – faculty, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers – meet weekly for presentations and discussions of ongoing work in Area labs.

Cognitive Psychology faculty receive research support from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the United States Department of Education. Additional support for graduate students (especially travel to conferences) comes from two University research units, The Center for Cognitive and Psycholinguistic Sciences (CaPS) and The Center for Development and Behavioral Neuroscience (CDBN).

  • Collaborative Research with Other Areas in Psychology

    The central goal for faculty and graduate students in the Cognitive Psychology Area is to understand the structure of normal cognition.

    Strong collaborative ties between faculty in the Cognitive and Clinical areas apply findings about healthy cognition to topics such as attention in social anxiety disorders, attention in children at risk for depression, how learning theory can inform treatment for anxiety and phobia disorders and how strategies for emotion regulation differ between healthy and schizophrenic individuals.

    Common interests for faculty in the Behavioral Neuroscience and Cognitive Psychology programs are how neural predictors of substance abuse interact with parental relationships and risk-taking behavior, especially in adolescence.

  • Research Themes in Cognitive Psychology

    The research interests of the Cognitive Psychology program span a wide range of topics. Additionally, the highly collegial environment promotes multidisciplinary and integrative studies in a number of areas:

    Language processing: Investigation of all facets of this core human ability, from the perceptual decoding of printed and spoken words, to the semantic processing of single words and sentences, to how readers track events and characters in extended narratives. Laboratories use state-of-the-art methods including:

    • Event-related brain potentials (Van Petten, Laszlo)

    • Eye-tracking (Inhoff)

    • Sophisticated analysis and editing of speech signals (Connine)

    • Online adjustments of reading speed (Klin)

    • Neural network models of word recognition (Laszlo)

    Learning and memory: Exploring learning and memory at multiple levels of analysis. Research themes in this area include:

    • Basic principles of learning in animals and humans, namely how temporal and causal relations between sensory stimuli, responses and outcomes are encoded and retrieved (Miller)

    • Combining empirical data and computational models to understand how categories are learned and the role of comparison in structuring human knowledge (Kurtz)

    • Investigating fluency, familiarity and recollection in episodic memory with an emphasis on the importance of decision-making, attribution and inference in memory (Westerman)

    • Interactions between executive function and basic memory abilities using event-related brain potentials (Van Petten)

    • How attention is drawn to stimuli previously associated with threat or safety, and how classical conditioning alters human cortical activity (Miskovic)

    Perception, attention and emotion: Determining what aspects of the outside world will occupy cognitive resources and drive their behavior via what animals and people attend to. Multiple research groups focus on the following topics:

    • Examination of attention to visual objects and scenes (Gerhardstein)

    • How attentional focus during reading is governed by lexical and higher-level properties of the text (Inhoff)

    • How people regulate their emotional state via selective attention, reappraisal and self-distraction (Strauss)

    • Evaluating how sensory processing is altered by affectively-salient stimuli and motivational state (Miskovic)

    Cognitive development: Investigating how essential aspects of cognition are developed and maintained. Research in this area focuses on the following:

    • Examination of visual object and scene processing from early childhood to adulthood, including why children have difficulty transferring information from television, video and computer screens to real three-dimensional objects (Gerhardstein)

    • Looking at the development of reading skills and how these differ between children at different ability levels (Laszlo), as well as identifying methods of reading remediation that can be tailored to unique needs of individual students (a collaboration between Kurtz and Laszlo)

    • Investigating how early exposure to alcohol and differences in maternal care affect later behavior and learning abilities in rats (N. Spear)

  • Techniques Available in Cognitive Psychology

    Laboratories in the Cognitive Psychology Area use a variety of methods to understand the organization of cognitive processes. These techniques include:

    • Quantifying the speed and accuracy of task performance

    • Quantitative analysis of questionnaire data

    • Computational modeling

    • Eye tracking studies (particularly gaze direction and the timing of eye movements)

    • Cortical electrophysiology (event-related potentials, phase coherence and synchronization in the EEG)

    • Other psychophysiological measures such as heart rate, pupil diameter, skin conductance

After Graduation

The Psychology Department has an excellent track record in placing graduates. Alumni have obtained academic or industrial employment in the human factors field, or pursued post-doctoral training at nationally distinguished research institutions. Such organizations include the College of William and Mary, the University of California at Los Angeles, Dell Computer, Texas A&M Medical School, Lockheed Martin, James Madison University, IBM and the Yale School of Medicine.