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Psychology 418 (Learning and Cognition) Fall 2010

Dr. J. Scott Jordan

Office: DeGarmo 435E

Telephone: 438-2484


Office Hours: W 1:00-3:00 or by appointment

Purpose of the Course

The purpose of the course is to introduce the student to the science of learning and cognition and the basic theoretical assumptions underlying the practice of such science. I have approached the topic from many different levels of scale (i.e., biological, behavioral, perceptual, cognitive, and social). This is meant to reflect both the diverse constellation of student interests, as well as a personal belief that the factors critical to learning and cognition depend somewhat upon the level of scale one is investigating. Over the course of the semester the student will attempt to integrate the findings from these various areas of research in order to incorporate them into his/her own working definition of learning and cognition. This course also meets certain of the objectives for the doctoral degree in School Psychology, including an emphasis on the history of the science of learning and cognition. A list of the remaining School Psychology objectives achieved by this class is attached to the end of this syllabus. Objectives accomplished by this course are written in bold type.

Course Grade

The grade for the course will be determined on the basis of 2 exams, 2 paper reviews, class participation and a term paper. Points for these items will be allocated as follows:


Exam #1:

Exam #2:


Term Paper:








The final grade will be based on a 90, 80, 70, 60 percent scale. This scale will not be altered.


Exams will be given in essay format. Students will be given potential questions the week before the exam, and will write their answers at home. The grade will be based upon the coherence and the thoroughness of the answers. Make-up exams are only possible if the student contacts me via phone or e-mail BEFORE the exam, and the reason for re-scheduling deemed appropriate.

Term Paper

Students will write a position paper regarding learning and cognition. Specifically, they will select an area of research in learning and cognition, and then take a position on that issue and defend it via the use of empirical research. Two copies of a first draft will be due on Wednesday November 17, 2010. They will be distributed to fellow students for review. The draft paper should be typed, double-spaced, written in APA format (5th edition) and entail a title page, abstract, body of text, and reference section. The body of text should be no less than 10 pages. A minimum of 10 sources should be cited and referenced, and at least 7 of these should be research articles that were published within the last 5 years. These are minimum requirements. Each student will receive 2 papers to review. The format of the reviews will be discussed in class. Reviews will be due at the beginning of class on December 1, 2010. Final papers will be due on December 15, 2010.

Reading List and Semester Schedule

Scanned versions of the following articles can be found on the Milner Library web page:
. If there is a web-link under an item, this means you can download the outline I will use in class to guide our discussion of that paper. These might help guide you in your reading of the papers. Check the web-site every week for additional supplementary materials.


​​Topic 1: Science and Systems (August 25 & September 1)

Anderson, D. A. (2007). Consciousness and realism. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 14(1-2), 1-17.

Manicas, P. T., & Secord, P. F. (1983). Implications for psychology of the new philosophy of science. American Psychologist, 38, 399-413.

Tseng, R. (2003). The skeptical idealist (two excerpts in one file). Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic. (called Enlightenment Positions on library web site).

Topic 2: The Biological Level (September 8 & 15)

Holloway, M. (2003, September). The mutable brain. Scientific American, pp. 79-85.

Kandel, E. R. (1985). Cellular mechanisms of learning and the biological basis of individuality. In E. Kandell and J. Schwartz (Eds.). Principles of neuroscience (pp. 816-833). North-Holland: Elsevier.

Kauffman, S. (1995). At home in the universe (pp. 47-62). Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Listed a​s We The Expected in library e-reserve)

Jordan, J. S., Ghin, M. (2006). (Proto-) consciousness as a contextually-emergent property of self-sustaining systems. Mind & Matter4(1), 45-68.

Topic 3: The Behavioral Level (September 22, 29, & October 6)

Skinner, B. F. (1956). A case history in scientific method. American Psychologist, 11, 221-233.

Tolman, E. C. (1948). Cognitive maps in rats and men. Psychological Review, 55, 189-208.

Hershberger, W. A. (1989). The synergy of voluntary and involuntary action. In W. A. Hershberger (Ed.), Volitional action: Conation and control (pp. 3-20). North-Holland: Elsevier.

Hommel, B. (1998). Perceiving one’s own actions—and what it leads to. In J. S. Jordan (Ed.), Systems theories and a priori aspects of perception (pp. 143-179). North-Holland: Elsevier.

Clark, A. (2000). Perception, action, and the brain. In A. Clark (Ed.), Mindware (pp. 84-102). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Vetter, G., Stadler, M., & Haynes, J. D. (1997). Phase transitions in learning. The Journal of Mind and Behavior18(2), 335-350.

Topic 4: The Perceptual Level (October 13, 20)

Sekuler, R., & Blake, R. (2002). Learning to see. In R. Sekuler and R. Blake (Eds.) Perception (pp. 228-250).  Boston: McGraw Hill.

Koch, I. (2001). Automatic and intentional activation of task sets. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 27, 1474-1486.

Cooney, J. B. (1999). Stability and instability in the dynamics of perceptual learning. In J. S. Jordan (Ed.), Systems theories and a priori aspects of perception (pp. 337-357). North Holland: Elsevier

Jordan, J. S. (2003). Emergence of self and other in perception and action. Consciousness and Cognition12, 633-646.


Topic 5: The Cognitive Level (October 27 & November 3, ​10, 17)

Smith, L. B., Sera, M., and Gattuso, B. (1988). The development of thinking. In R. Sternberg and E. E. Smith (Eds.), The psychology of human thought (pp. 366-391). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mander, J. (1992). How to build a baby: II. Conceptual primitives. Psychological Review99, 587-604.

Kinsbourne, M. (2002). The role of imitation in body ownership and mental growth. In A. Meltzoff and W. Prinz (Eds.), The imitative mind (pp. 311-330). New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thelen, E., Schoner, G., Scheier, C. & Smith, L. (2001). The dynamics of embodiment: A field theory of infant perseverative reaching. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 1-86.

Hund, A., & Foster, E. K. (2008). Understanding developmental changes in stability and flexibility of spatial categories based on object relatedness. Developmental Psychology44(1), 218-232.

Topic 6: The Social Level (December 1 & 8)

Premack, D., & Woodruff, G. (1978). Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1(4), 515-526.


Bargh, J., & Chartrand, T. (1999). The unbearable automaticity of being. American Psychologist54(7), 462-479.

Rizzolatti, G., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., & Gallese, V. (2002). From mirror neurons to imitation: Facts and speculations. In A. Meltzoff and W. Prinz (Eds.), The imitative mind. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Horner, V., & Whiten, A. (2005). Causal knowledge and imitation/emulation switching in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and children (Homo sapiens). Animal Cognition8, 164-181.

Galantucci, B. (2005). An experimental study of the emergence of human communication systems. Cognitive Science29, 737-767.

Kinsbourne, M., & Jordan, J. S. (2009). Embodied anticipation: A neurodevelopomental interpretation. Discourse Processes46, 103-126.

Final Exam (December 15)

Types of activities & guidelines:


Success in this course relies upon the students’ consistent attendance and active participation, both in and outside of the classroom.  Students are expected to attend class regularly; there is no practical way to make up for missed class discussions and in-class activities. Coming to class unprepared, however, seriously detracts from the group effort expected in class. Accordingly, mere attendance in class is not enough. 

Students are expected to prepare for class by completing the assignments/readings ahead of time. Active participation includes informed and constructive contributions to classroom discussions active listening, taking notes, and so forth.

Academic Integrity:

Academic dishonesty, when discovered, will result in severe consequences with regard to your overall grade in this course.  Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated. The Modern Language Association (MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers) defines plagiarism as follows:

repeating another’s sentences as your own,

adopting a particularly apt phrase as your own,

paraphrasing someone else’s argument as your own,

presenting someone else’s line of thinking in the development

of a thesis as though it were your own

Any matters regarding academic integrity will be handled according to University Policy.

Disability Concerns:

If you need a special accommodation to fully participate in this class, please contact Disability Concerns at 438-5853 (voice), 438-8620 (TDD).

Objectives/Competencies to Be Developed during the Doctoral program in School Psychology


The goal of the doctoral program in school psychology is to develop leaders, innovators, and positive change agents working in a variety of settings including public and private schools, hospitals, medical centers, and colleges/universities.  The program has adopted multiple objectives. The first objective of the program is for students to acquire a solid foundation of basic psychological principles. Students should demonstrate competence in using the principles to understand and explain human behavior.

The second objective is for students to acquire skills in assessment, intervention, and collaborative problem solving (consultation) to address mental health and learning problems in individuals from birth to 21-years of age.

Students will:

a.     demonstrate knowledge of the multiple developmental and contextual factors;

b.     identify referral concerns,

c.     select, administer, and interpret appropriate instruments and procedures for assessment, administer and interpret them, know current best practice, and understand the strengths and limitations of available instruments consistent with best practice;

d.     plan and evaluate empirically supportable interventions as needed, including direct interventions involving classroom-based or home-school collaborations, and indirect services, such as consultation with teachers, administrators, parents, or systems; and

e.     communicate (orally and in writing) results effectively to concerned parties, such as children, parents, and teachers.

The third objective is for students to receive professional socialization to the field of psychology and to school psychology specifically. For the program to be successful, students must:

         a.     understand the scientist-practitioner orientation;

b.        understand the history and systems of psychology and the specialty of school psychology;

  1. understand legal issues, including eligibility criteria for special education services based on federal, state, and typical district policies and ethical principles impacting the practice of school psychology;
  2. demonstrate knowledge of and sensitivity to cultural diversity and individual differences;
  3. demonstrate knowledge of current professional issues and roles in the field (e.g., supervision);
  4. understand multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary team functioning; and
  5. demonstrate knowledge and skill related to clinical and administrative supervision.

The fourth objective is for students to acquire professional-level knowledge about research and skills to conduct it. Thus, students must be able to:

  1. seek answers to empirical questions by extrapolating from theory and research literature and by conducting their own studies;
  2. design, conduct, interpret, and disseminate the results of educational and psychological research as a means of contributing to the knowledge base of the profession;
  3. understand various research methodologies, including applied approaches such as program evaluation of school-based programs;
  4. demonstrate competence in statistics and related computer applications;
  5. demonstrate scholarly writing competence; and
  6. demonstrate competence as an informed consumer of the scientific and professional research literature and the skills and attitude of a life-long learner.

The fifth objective of the program is for each student to develop additional competence in the knowledge and skills noted above in a chosen area of emphasis.

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