Carnegie Mellon University - Psychology Department

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Psychology Department, Carnegie Mellon University
Baker Hall 342c
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
United States
(412) 268-2781
(412) 268-2798

Carnegie Mellon University - Psychology Department

The Psychology Department at Carnegie Mellon has long been considered a pioneer in cognitive psychology, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. Today its programs feature not only those fields, but social/personality psychology, developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and health psychology as well. It is consistently ranked as one of the top departments in the nation, and its distinguished faculty have been recognized by numerous honors and awards.

Research Areas

Cognitive Psychology & Neuroscience

The study of cognitive psychology encompasses perception, learning, memory, language, reasoning, and problem-solving. Cognitive neuroscience focus on the links between psychological functions and neural mechanisms. The two areas are strongly integrated at Carnegie Mellon, with many cognitive faculty pursuing the methods and issues of both behavioral and neural approaches.

The department played a pioneering role in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. It was among the first to emphasize precise specification of the mechanisms underlying cognitive processes, often by using computer models. The faculty developed architectures for computational modeling and new behavioral methods to test these models, such as the analysis of think-aloud protocols and eye gaze. Carnegie Mellon faculty were among the first to use fMRI and other physiologically based measurements of cognition and to draw inferences from a variety of populations, such as experts in particular content domains, bilinguals, and neuropsychological patients.

These emphases on mechanism and precise theory continue to characterize the cognitive psychologists at Carnegie Mellon. As cognitive neuroscientists, faculty in the department base their theories of cognition on physiological processes at multiple levels, from single cells and neural circuits, to brain modules and their interactions. The research involves a number of techniques, including neuropsychological analysis of patients with brain damage and mental disorders, computational modeling, functional neuroimaging, and experiments on the relation between brain development and cognition in human infants and other species.

Developmental Psychology

Understanding human behavior requires understanding how that behavior came to be. Developmental psychologists at Carnegie Mellon study the behavioral capabilities that infants bring to the world and the processes that allow the vast expansion of these capabilities in infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Particular emphasis is placed on the cognitive and perceptual-motor processes that produce development in such areas as problem solving, mathematical and scientific reasoning, language, visual perception, and locomotion.

What unifies the various research programs is a common effort to understand how developmental change occurs. In service of this goal, many different experimental and observational methods are used, including analyses of patterns of errors, verbal protocols, hand gestures, eye movements, and exploratory behavior. Several research programs utilize computer simulations to promote explicit theories of the skills and knowledge that underlie children's behavior, the processes that put these skills and knowledge to work, and the processes that govern the acquisition of more advanced competence. There are a number of areas of the Carnegie Mellon campus that are dedicated to developmental research, including the Ambika Paul Infancy Research suite and the Children's School.

Social / Personality / Health Psychology

Humans are fundamentally social beings. They are also individuals with unique histories, experiences and perceptions. Their social and cognitive behaviors, the nature of their relationships and their health are influenced not only by the social contexts in which they find themselves but also by the personality traits they bring to those situations.

The program builds upon traditional research and training experiences in the social/personality psychology laboratory as well as on the faculty's current interests and opportunities in studying patient populations. Researchers in the department interact and collaborate with researchers at other educational and medical institutions. For example, they currently have an NIH-sponsored training program in Health Psychology that involves researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and in Carnegie Mellon's Department of Social and Decision Sciences.

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