Image of student using VRCognitive Psychology

Our program is committed to being a nationally recognized program in cognitive psychology and to training first-rate researchers and scholars in the science of the human mind. Our graduates go on to productive careers as teachers and researchers in academic settings, or as research scientists and applied cognitive psychologists in business and industry.

A relatively small group of graduate students participate in the Program (typically 2-3 students per faculty member) so as to provide highly individualized graduate education, allow close collaboration with faculty, and promote frequent formal and informal interactions with faculty and peers. At the same time, the Program benefits from the facilities and resources of a large and thriving department at a Carnegie Foundation level-one research institute.

The Cognitive program is administered according to a mentorship model. New students are matched with a specific faculty member according to area of interest and by mutual consent of the student and faculty member. The faculty advisor serves as a mentor to the student and, with the student’s advisory committee, guides the student through the Program.  All faculty are deeply committed to student mentoring and students are encouraged to collaborate with faculty and students in other laboratories.

All of our students obtain a strong grounding in fundamental cognitive theory. In addition, we provide opportunities for our students to gain additional skills and professional development.  We have particular experience in training students in the following interdisciplinary areas:

Applied Cognitive Psychology:  Work in this area is concerned with the application of theories and findings from Cognitive Psychology to real-world problems and issues, and also seeks to investigate capabilities and limitations of human cognition that are relevant in everyday settings. Our faculty and students have explored how ideas from attention, memory, perception, and decision making can be applied to improve understanding, learning, and choices. Tackling real world problems is often interdisciplinary in nature, and our work is frequently conducted through links to an array of other departments at Colorado State, through collaborations with other universities, and also with government, military, and industry partners.

Science of Learning:  Faculty and graduate students studying the science of learning in our program focus on how basic principles in learning and memory can be translated into educational practice.  The program benefits from a number of collaborations throughout campus, include those with the School of Education, the Center for Learning Analytics, the Department of Computer Science, and The Institute for Learning and Teaching.  Students interested in Science of Learning have pursued academic careers and careers in institutional research and biostatistics.

Cognitive Neuroscience:  Our program is an excellent home for students who want to conduct both cognitive behavioral and human neuroscience studies that inform and build upon each other.  Anne Cleary and Carol Seger have each trained students who have gone on to postdoctoral training and ultimately successful careers in Cognitive Neuroscience. Students can benefit from many opportunities to interact with others interested in human neuroscience at CSU, including faculty and students in the Cognitive Neuroscience graduate training program, and the broader interdisciplinary Program in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Neurosciences.

For more information about each faculty member’s research and laboratory, see Faculty below.

We only accept applications for the Fall semester.

Application due date is January 15th.

The cognitive program has suspended use of the GRE in admissions decisions.

Application instructions and links are located here.

Admission to the Doctoral Program in Cognitive Psychology is highly competitive. Students with research experience and a strong background in STEM fields are preferred. Students having either a bachelor’s or master’s degree will be considered. The Program is designed to be completed in four to five years of full-time enrollment. Students admitted with a master’s degree in psychology can expect to take about three years to complete doctoral requirements. Student’s admitted with a master’s degree must have completed an empirical master’s thesis in order to qualify to be admitted directly to the Ph.D. program. Students who completed a purely course-based master’s may apply for admission but will be expected to complete a second M.S. degree at CSU. Students applying to the Doctoral Program in Cognitive Psychology should be firmly committed to the completion of the Ph.D. Although a master’s (M.S.) degree is awarded once all M.S. requirements have been met, it is included only as part of the Doctoral Program.

If you have any questions about admissions to the program, please contact the Program Coordinator, Carol A. Seger

Contingent on the availability of funding and a student’s progress in the Program, students admitted with a bachelor’s degree may typically expect to receive funding through their fifth year of training, and those with a master’s degree may typically expect to receive funding through their third year of training. We have a very strong record of financial support: Since the inception of the Program, all students who have requested funding have received it. Financial support comes from several sources: teaching and research assistantships funded by the Department and University; research assistantships funded by grants to individual faculty members, and Department- and University-sponsored fellowships for outstanding students. Students who are not in good standing or are not making timely progress in the program receive a lower priority for funding.

Our faculty list for this program is located here.

Dr. Anne Cleary maintains an active research laboratory that investigates the processes involved in recognition memory. One line of research is aimed at identifying what features of an item or situation can produce familiarity-detection. A second line of research is aimed at investigating the neural correlates of the different bases of recognition, including the neural underpinnings of feature-based familiarity-detection. A third line of research is aimed at examining metacognitive aspects of memory sensations or awareness during retrieval failure, such as during cue familiarity-detection when recall fails, the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon and déjà vu experiences. A fourth line focuses on applications of memory research to real-world settings, such as in educational and training situations.

Dr Cleary’s lab website can be found at:

Dr. Cleary is planning to admit students for the 2023-2024 academic year

Recent and representative publications:

Cleary, A.M. & Brown, A.S. (2022). The Déjà vu Experience (2nd Edition).  Routledge

Huebert, A.M., McNeely-White, K.L., & Cleary, A.M. (2022). Can cue familiarity during recall failure prompt illusory recollective experience? Memory & Cognition, 50(4), 681–695.

McNeely-White, K.L., McNeely-White, D.G. & Cleary, A.M. (2021). Global matching in music familiarity: How musical features combine across memory traces to increase familiarity with the whole in which they are embedded. Journal of Memory and Language, 118, 104217.

Dr. Matthew G. Rhodes examines human memory and metacognition. One line of work investigates how subjective experience is related to memory performance, particularly for tasks such as predicting future memory performance. Other work focuses on how basic principles of human memory can be effectively applied to student learning and education. Dr. Rhodes also maintains lines of work examining memory for faces, predictors of individual differences in memory accuracy, and recognition memory processes.

Dr. Rhodes’ lab website can be found at:

Dr. Rhodes is planning to admit students for the 2023-2024 academic year

Recent and representative publications:

Rhodes, M. G., Cleary, A. M., & DeLosh, E.  (2020).  A guide to effective studying and learning:  Practical strategies from the science of learning.  Oxford University Press.

Rhodes, M. G.  (2019).   Metacognition.  Teaching of Psychology, 46, 168-175.

Hausman, H., & Rhodes, M. G.  (2018).  When pretesting fails to enhance learning concepts from reading texts.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 24, 331-346

Dr. Carol A. Seger is a cognitive neuroscientist who studies learning, including category learning and instrumental learning.  One research program in her lab uses functional MRI to identify neural systems underlying acquisition and representation of categories and concepts.  A second research program is focused on the corticostriatal system and how it contributes to learning across a broad variety of mental functions including attention, decision making, and motor control.  Her lab also participates in collaborative research studying basal ganglia disorders including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and Substance Use Disorders.

Dr Seger’s lab website can be found at:

Dr. Seger is planning to admit students for the 2023-2024 academic year

Recent and representative publications:

Xu, C., Hou, G., He, T., Ruan, Z., Chen, J., Wei, Z., Seger, C. A., Chen, Q., & Peng, Z. (2022). Imbalance in Functional and Structural Connectivity Underlying Goal-Directed and Habitual Learning Systems in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Cerebral Cortex, 32, 17, 3690-3705.

Braunlich, K., Liu, Z, & Seger, C.A. (2017). Occipitotemporal category representations are sensitive to abstract category boundaries defined by generalization demands. The Journal of Neuroscience, 37, 7631-7642.

Seger, C. A & Miller, E. K. (2010) Category learning in the brain.  Annual Review of Neuroscience, 33, 203-219.

Dr. Chris Wickens does research on attention (& multi-tasking) and decision making, both as individual disciplines and, particularly their interaction: the role of attention in making decisions, and the decisions made when multi-tasking. Two underlying themes in both of the above are computational modeling of the processes involved, and application of both experimental data and modeling to the workplace outside the laboratory, particularly high risk workplaces involving humans interaction with automation. Dr. Wickens does not accept graduate students but he mentors students, serves on thesis committees, and teaches graduate seminars.

Recent and representative publications:

Wickens, C.D. (2014), Effort in human performance and decision making. Human Factors, 56, 1329-1336.

Wickens, C. D., Clegg, B. A., Vienne, A., & Sebok (2015) Complacency and Automation Bias in the Use of Imperfect Automation. Human Factors, 57, 728-739.

Wickens, C.D., Gutzwiller, R., & Santamaria, A. (2015) Discrete task switching in overload: A meta-analyses and a model. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.

Dr. Jessica K. Witt examines how information presented to the visual system can improve cognition.  Such as using graphs to help people make medical decisions or present visual displays of risk (e.g., hurricanes, wild fires, extreme weather events) can help people understand impending risk.

Dr. Witt’s lab website can be found at:

Dr. Witt is not planning to admit students for the 2023-2024 academic year

Recent and representative publications:

Witt, J. K., & Clegg, B. A. (in press). Dynamic ensemble visualizations to support understanding for uncertain trajectories.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.  [Winner of the 2021 Raymond S. Nickerson Award for the best paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied]

Witt, J. K. (in press).  An objective measure of decisional clarity to assess decision aid effectiveness in situations with equipoise: A randomized trial.  Medical Decision Making.

Witt, J. K., & Dhami, M. K. (in press). Visual Organization of Icon Arrays Affects Bayesian Reasoning and Risk Judgments.  Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (JARMAC).

Image of Ben Clegg, Anne Cleary and Matt RhodesLauren Bates – Assistant Professor, Chatham University

Lisa Blalock – Associate Professor, University of West Florida

John Blitch – ‎Senior Research Professor, US Air Force Academy

Kurt Braunlich – Section on Learning and Plasticity, National Institute of Mental Health

Julie Bugg – Associate Professor, Washington University in St. Louis

Shana Carpenter – Associate Professor, Iowa State University

Alex Claxton, Planning and Research Analyst, Canada College

Sarah DeLozier, Clinical Research Biostatistician II, University Hospitals (Cleveland)

Robert Gutzwiller – Assistant Professor, Arizona State University

Hannah Hausman – Assistant Professor, UC Santa Cruz

Bogdan Kostic – Associate Professor, Missouri State University

Megan Littrell – Educational Researcher, University of Colorado – Boulder

Vanessa Loaiza – Senior Lecturer, University of Essex (UK)

Katherine L. McNeely-White, Postdoctoral fellow, UC-Davis

Geoffrey O’Shea –Professor, State University of New York, College at Oneonta 

Christopher Rowland – Assistant Professor, Eckerd College

Anthony Ryals – Assistant Professor, University of North Texas

Amanda Sensenig – Associate Professor, Goshen College

Danielle Sitzman – Associate Professor, Eastern Washington University

Nicholas Soderstrom – Lead Learning Scientist at Lasting Learning

K. Uma Tauber – Associate Professor, Texas Christian University

Nate Tenhundfeld – Assistant Professor, University of Alabama in Huntsville

Hillary Wehe – Assistant Professor, Davis & Elkins College

Nancy Zook – Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor), University of  West of England (UK)

Timeline of training: The Program is designed so that students complete and defend a master’s thesis by the end of their second (and no later than their third) year of graduate study. Students who successfully complete the thesis plus at least 32 credits of graduate coursework are granted a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Psychology. During the third (and no later than the fourth) year of graduate study, students complete a Comprehensive Examination to demonstrate their readiness for continuing with the dissertation. The fifth year of graduate student is primarily devoted to completion of the doctoral dissertation (although some students complete this in their fourth year). The dissertation and any remaining Program, Department, and University requirements should be completed within two to three years of completion of the M.S. degree. Upon completion of all requirements, students are granted a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Psychology.

Research Training Requirements and Opportunities: All students in the Doctoral Program develop sophistication in research methods, experimental design, and statistical analysis. These skills are developed both through coursework and through individual mentoring by Program faculty. Students must be actively involved in research each semester that they are in the Program. Students are encouraged to develop multiple research projects and are expected to conduct research in addition to that required by their thesis and dissertation.  Independent Study, Thesis, and Dissertation courses are the mechanism by which academic credit is given for research. To promote the development of communication and presentation skills and to encourage scholarly interaction with faculty and peers, students are expected to participate in our weekly brownbag meeting each semester throughout their graduate training. Credit for this activity is attained through enrollment in Current Issues in Cognitive and Neural Sciences.

Teaching Training Requirements and Opportunities: Students develop teaching skills and get direct teaching experience by virtue of the Program’s teaching requirement. All students are required to teach one semester of two different laboratory courses from our undergraduate offerings in Cognitive Psychology, Applied Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Biological Psychology, and Sensation and Perception. The student is given primary responsibility for the day-to-day teaching of the course but is supervised and mentored by a faculty member. One strength of the Program is that there are many additional opportunities to develop teaching skills, if desired. Graduate students may be invited to teach lecture-oriented courses during regular semester sessions or condensed summer sessions. The Department of Psychology also administers a Teaching Fellow Program that involves the supervised instruction of General Psychology. In addition, The Institute for Learning and Teaching sponsor lectures, seminars, and workshops on college teaching.

Course Requirements:  Our course requirements are flexible to allow students to design the program of study that will best serve their research and career goals. We are committed to interdisciplinary study and there are numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary coursework within and outside of the Department. Students may petition Program faculty for course substitutions or waivers in order to pursue individual training goals.

All students in the Doctoral Program in Cognitive Psychology complete the following minimum course requirements:

  1. A two-semester sequence in statistics (PSY 652 and PSY 653)
  2. One foundational Cognitive Psychology course selected from the following options: Cognitive Processes or Human Performance.
  3. Advanced statistics and research methods coursework. This requirement may be fulfilled by one or more classes totaling at least 3 units. Courses can be from Department of Psychology, or Statistics Department. Program approval required for courses from other departments or universities.
  4. Advanced training in cognitive psychology. This requirement is fulfilled by completing two or more cognitive specialty seminars (PSY692B or PSY792B) totaling at least 6 units.
  5. Student’s Choice. Students must complete at least 6 additional units of graduate level coursework.  These may include up to one additional seminar (see 4, above), up to one additional Cognitive Psychology foundation course (see 2, above), other Psychology graduate courses (e.g., Cognitive Neuroscience, Health Psychology), or courses offered in other departments. Courses from other departments or other universities must be approved by the Program.
  6. Enrollment in Current Issues in Cognitive and Neural Sciences each semester to receive credit for participation in our weekly brownbag meeting.

Student Evaluation: An essential part of graduate study is clear and actionable feedback on your progress.  To provide such feedback, Program faculty members meet to discuss the progress of new students at the end of each semester during the first year. After the first year, students are evaluated on a yearly basis. The purpose of these meetings is to provide written, constructive feedback about the student’s performance with regard to coursework, teaching, research, and timely progress. A formal evaluation is performed after completion of the master’s degree to assure that the student is a suitable candidate for doctoral study.