This consists of the various research methods that we use in cognitive psychology. Every research has a goal and it is achieved through the appropriate methodology.
Cognitive psychologists use various methods to explore how humans think. These methods include (i) laboratory or other controlled experiments, (ii) psychobiological research, (iii) self-reports, case studies, naturalistic observation, and (iv) computer simulations and artificial intelligence. Each method offers distinct advantages and disadvantages.
i) Experiments on Human Behaviour: In controlled experimental designs, an experimenter conducts research, typically in a laboratory setting. The experimenter controls as many aspects of the experimental situation as possible. There are basically two kinds of variables in any given experiment – independent variables and dependent variables. The irrelevant variables are held constant and are called control variables. In implementing experimental method, the experimenter must use a representative and random sample of the population of interest. S/he must also exert rigorous control over the experimental conditions. If those requisites for the experimental method are fulfilled, the experimenter may be able to infer probable causality. This influence is the effects of the independent variable (the treatment) on the dependent variable (the outcome) for the given population.
ii) Psychobiological Research: Through psychobiological research, investigators study the relationship between cognitive performance and cerebral events and situations. The various specific techniques used in psychobiological research generally fall into three categories. The first category is that of techniques for studying an individual’s brain post-mortem, relating the individual’s cognitive function prior to death to observable features of the brain. The second category is techniques for studying images showing structures of or activities in the brain of an individual who is known to have a particular cognitive deficit. The third is techniques for obtaining information about cerebral processes during the normal performance of cognitive activity (e.g. by using brain imaging techniques).
iii) Self-Reports, Case Studies, and Naturalistic Observation: Individual experiments and psychobiological studies often focus on the precise specification of discrete aspects of cognition across individuals. To obtain richly textured information about how particular individuals think in a broad range of contexts, researchers may use self-reports (an individual’s own account of cognitive processes), case studies (in-depth studies of individuals), and naturalistic observation (detailed studies of cognitive performance in everyday situations and no laboratory contexts). On the one hand, experimental research is most useful for testing hypotheses. On the other hand, research based on qualitative methods is often particularly useful for the formulation of hypotheses. These methods are also useful to generate descriptions of rare events or processes that we have no other way to measure.
iv) Computer Simulations and Artificial Intelligence: Digital computers played a fundamental role in the emergence of the study of cognitive psychology. One kind of influence is indirect though models of human cognition based on models of how computers process information. Another kind is direct, that is through computer simulations and artificial intelligence. In computer simulations, researchers program computers to imitate a given human function or process. Some researchers even have attempted to create computer models of the entire cognitive architecture of the human mind. Their models have stimulated heated discussions regarding how the human mind may function as a whole. Sometimes the distinction between simulation and artificial intelligence is blurred. It is also possible to combine the two approaches.
Cognitive psychologists often broaden and deepen their understanding of cognition through research in cognitive science. Cognitive science is a cross-disciplinary field that uses ideas and methods from cognitive psychology, psychobiology, artificial intelligence, philosophy, linguistics, and anthropology. Cognitive psychologists use these ideas and methods to focus on the study of how humans acquire and use knowledge. They also work in collaboration with other psychologists, such as social psychologists (in the field of social cognition), psychologists who study motivation and emotion, and engineering psychologists (who study human-machine interactions).