Research Methods to study Cognitive Psychology

Following are the best Methods to study cognitive psychology.

  1. Naturalistic Observation
  2. Introspection or Self Report
  3. Experiments or Laboratory/ Controlled Observation
  4. Quasi-Experiments
  5. Neuropsychological tools

Let’s see Methods to study cognitive psychology in details,


Naturalistic Observation

Observation means watching, monitoring, scrutiny, examination, or inspection. Best way to study something is to watch them/ it behave (eat, sleep, walk, think, etc) in their normal environment.

  • It is a detailed studies of cognitive performance in everyday situations and no laboratory contexts.
  • An observer watching people in familiar, everyday contexts going about their cognitive business.
  • Example- How to withdraw money from a automated teller machine (ATM).
  • Most appropriately used to identify problems, issues, or phenomena of interest to be investigated with other research methods. ◦
  • Positive Aspect-
    • Ecological validity.
    • Relatively easy,
    • Doesn’t require a lot of resources to carry out,
    • Doesn’t  require other people to formally volunteer for study.
  • Negative Aspect-
    • Lack of experimental control.
    • Observer bias.- to remove it we can use – Blind observers: People who do not know what the research question is: So, they will have no preconceived notions about what they “should” see.

Observer effect – people who know they are being watched, will not behave normally. Thus Observer should be hidden.

2. Introspection or Self Report

  • By Wilhelm Wundt.
  • The observer observes his/ her own mental processes.
  • Self-reports -An individual’s own account of cognitive processes.
  • For example- participants might be asked to solve complicated arithmetic problems without paper or pencil and to “think aloud” as they do so.
  • Positive Aspects of introspection-
    • better insight into an experience and the factors that influenced it,
    • yielding a richer, more complete picture than an outsider could observe.
  • Negative Aspects of introspection-
    • Biasness in regard to your own cognition.
    • Social desirability of looking good .

3. Experiments or Laboratory/ Controlled Observation

  • Few times observing behavior of a person / animal is not practical in a natural environment.
  • When researches want more control on variables.
  • Fully controlled Independent variable.
  • Random Assignments of sample.
  • For example, Infants reaction to a mirror .
  • Positive Aspects of Experiments/ Laboratory Observation
    • Little more influence over the setting.
    • To standardize the setting for all participants,
    • Researcher would be trying to channel the behavior in certain ways.
  • Negative Aspects of Experiments/ Laboratory Observation
    • Subject or sample can have observer effect.

4. Quasi-Experiments

  • When researcher cant controlled Independent variable.
  • When Researcher cant assign sample randomly.
  • but researcher will have somehow control to most of the variables playing role in the experiment.
  • For example, experimenters cannot reassign participants to a different gender, ethnicity, age, or educational background.

5. Neuropsychological methods

 These are useful to examine the brain damage, brain disease, and severe mental illness.

  • Electroencephalography (EEG)– shows brain activity
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans -shows where neurons are firing.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – shows grey matter, white matter, and cerebrospinal fluid.
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans 
  • Neuropsychological Assessment Battery® (NAB®) by Robert A. Stern, and Travis White, to Assesses a wide range of cognitive skills and functions Age range:18- 97 years; Time:3 hrs & 40 minutes for all five modules


  • Philip D. Harvey, Clinical applications of neuropsychological assessment.
  • Galloti, K. M. (2004). Cognitive psychology in and out of the laboratory. USA: Thomson Wadsworth.
  • Matlin, M. (1994). Cognition. Bangalore: Harcourt Brace Pub
  • Sternberg, R. J. (2007). Cognitive Psychology. Australia: Thomson Wadsworth.
  • Solso, R. L. (2004). Cognitive Psychology (6th ed.). Delhi: Pearson Education.

Read about Introduction to cognitive psychology, click here.

2 Replies to “Research Methods to study Cognitive Psychology”

  1. the material is very much helpful
    can you please post the following notes.

    Unit-1: Advance in Cognitive Psychology- I
    1.4. Conceptual Understanding: Meta-cognition
    1.5. Application : Brain Assessment Tools : CT Scan, MRI, fMRI, PET Scan

    Unit-3: Applications of Cognitive Psychology- I
    3.1. Application in Clinical Psychology : Brain and Behavior Problems
    3.2. Application in Clinical Psychology: Psychotherapies
    3.3. Application in Education Psychology: (i) Child development (ii) Learning styles
    3.4. Application in Education Psychology: (i) Forgetting (ii) Moral development
    3.5. Application: Cognitive Stages of Development and Teaching methods/techniques

    Unit-4: Applications of Cognitive Psychology- II
    4.1. Application in Forensic Psychology : (i) Cognitive interview (ii) Lie Detector
    4.2. Application in Forensic Psychology: (iii) Eyewitness testimony (iv) Face Recognition
    4.3. Application in Computer Science: Memory Models and Computer Science
    4.4. Application in Computer Science : Information processing, SDT
    4.5. Application: Identity Kit

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