Cognitive science

Psychology PhD specialization

Explore the scientific study of the mind through collaborative, interdisciplinary training in psychology with a focus on cognitive science.

Specialization description

Degree awarded: Psychology, PhD

Cognitive science is one of six degree specializations offered through ASU's PhD program in psychology. With award-winning faculty, students explore fundamental cognitive processes using various theoretical perspectives. The specialization emphasizes both basic and translational research, investigating topics like:

  • Decision making.
  • Dynamics.
  • Language.
  • Memory.
  • Multilingual experiences and word learning.
  • Natural language processing.
  • Neuroscience.
  • Perception and action.

The Department of Psychology cultivates a collaborative learning environment. Students specializing in cognitive science complete unique core curriculum while engaging with faculty and peers across all psychology disciplines.

Specialization description

Degree awarded: Psychology, PhD

Cognitive science is one of six degree specializations offered through ASU's PhD program in psychology. With award-winning faculty, students explore fundamental cognitive processes using various theoretical perspectives. The specialization emphasizes both basic and translational research, investigating topics like:

  • Decision making.
  • Dynamics.
  • Language.
  • Memory.
  • Multilingual experiences and word learning.
  • Natural language processing.
  • Neuroscience.
  • Perception and action.

The Department of Psychology cultivates a collaborative learning environment. Students specializing in cognitive science complete unique core curriculum while engaging with faculty and peers across all psychology disciplines.

Important dates

  • September 1: Fall 2025 application opens.

  • December 5: Fall 2025 application deadline.

Students must submit ASU’s graduate application and the Department of Psychology’s Slideroom application to be considered for admission.

Faculty and research labs

Engage in quality academics and groundbreaking research, led by renowned cognitive science experts.

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Dr. Eric Amazeen

DPAC: Dynamics of Perception, Action and Cognition Lab

The DPAC Lab adopts a dynamical approach to understanding perception, action and cognition. Using principles of complex systems and ecological psychology, the lab studies team and motor coordination, physiological processes, postural control, learning, exploration, weight perception and tool use.

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Dr. Gi-Yeul Bae

Visual Cognition Neuroscience Lab

The Visual Cognitive Neuroscience Lab explores how we maintain stable visual perception amid noisy sensory input. Their research spans visual attention, working memory and decision-making, using psychophysics, EEG and computational modeling. 

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Dr. Viridiana Benitez

Learning and Development Lab

How do young children learn about the world? The Learning and Development Lab studies how children learn word meanings, process speech, focus attention and how multilingual experiences influence learning and development.

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Dr. Michael McBeath

PEARL: Perception, Ecological-Action, Robotics and Learning Lab

The PEARL Lab explores perception-action and biases in natural environments including sports, music, scene processing and language-emotion.

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Dr. Samuel McClure

Decision Neuroscience Lab

The Decision Neuroscience Lab studies how the brain makes decisions about rewards. Using fMRI and EEG, the lab relate findings to computational models of brain function and investigates how brain systems interact during decision involving self-control and competitive social interactions.

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Dr. Danielle McNamara

SOLET: Science of Learning and Educational Technology Lab

The SoLET Lab improves education by studying factors in comprehension and learning for K-12 students, adults, and second language learners. They integrate psychology, linguistics, and computer science to develop game-based tutoring systems and natural language processing tools.

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Courses and electives

Graduate students in the cognitive science training are expected to complete 84 credit hours. Following an apprenticeship model, students work closely with one faculty mentor and have several publications in major peer-reviewed outlets by graduation. Depending on their interests, they may also participate in several research labs.

Students will take core courses taught by cognitive science faculty, skill courses, and elective courses to expand their breadth of study. This research-heavy program requires students to participate in weekly seminars, as well as complete a dissertation.

Core and skill courses (24 credits)

Core courses. Students select three 500-level courses covering the basic content in cognitive science.

Skill courses. Two required courses that integrate quantitative methodologies into students' work.

Electives (6 credits)

Elective breadth courses. Students, in consultation with their advisors, choose two courses aligning with their research and training goals. These courses are discussed and deemed appropriate with a faculty mentor, and can include topics like:

  • Cognitive processes
  • Current issues in cognitive science
  • ... and more! 

Research (42 credits)

Research seminar and research hours. Each semester, students enroll in a psychology course that provides a weekly forum for presenting new research and discussing current topics.

In addition, students enroll in milestone courses where they complete independent study and meet regularly with a faculty member to discuss assignments and conduct research.

  • PSY 590 Reading and Conference
  • PSY 592 Research
  • PSY 599 Thesis
  • PSY 790 Reading and Conference
  • PSY 792 Research

Dissertation (12 credits)

Dissertation. Supervised research including literature review, research, data collection and analysis, and writing.

  • PSY 799 Dissertation
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The cognitive science specialization prepares students for careers in cognition and technology. 

Faculty members serve not only as educators but also as mentors, guiding students towards impactful research and fulfilling careers in computer science, informatics, intelligence, marketing, speech synthesis, telecommunications, medicine and data analysis.

Get in touch

  • For questions about the specialization, email the cognitive science area head, Dr. Samuel McClure, directly at samuel.mcclure@asu.edu

Other specialized areas of study