Department of Psychology

Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive Area Contact Person:  Dr. Peter Delaney,, (336) 256-0010.

The Cognitive Program is directed toward a scientific understanding of human intellectual functioning.  Our program is unified around an interest in executive functioning and includes specialties in memory and higher-order cognition.  Within memory, interests include working memory, long-term memory, context, metacognition, and other topics.  Within higher-order cognition, our interests include concept formation, attention, problem solving, decision making, and skill learning.  While our primary research is focused on basic scientific discovery, there are opportunities to be involved in applied research as well.  However, our main goal is to train future scientists to work in academic and research settings.

  • Core Faculty Research Specialties:
    • Dr. Peter F. Delaney: memory (especially improving study and forgetting); problem solving and skill learning.
    • Dr. Michael Kane: individual and group differences as a means to study cognitive control (and control failures) in attention, action, memory and intelligence.
    • Dr. Lili Sahakyan: retrieval processes in memory, especially context and memory; encoding strategies and memory; aging and memory.
    • Dr. Dayna Touron: metacognition, skill learning and decision making, aging and memory/learning.
  • Affiliated Faculty:
    • Dr. Janet Boseovski: Cognitive development in early childhood; personality understanding; children's reasoning.
    • Dr. Robert Guttentag: Developmental changes in cognitive functioning across the life-span; memory functioning during childhood; children's understanding of complex emotions.
    • Dr. Stuart Marcovitch: Cognitive development; representational flexibility; conscious control of behavior in childhood and across the lifespan.
    • Dr. Paul Silvia: Emotion; interest and aesthetics; the self; effort, creativity, and motivation.

Graduate Study:  To apply for the Ph.D program, see the page on doctoral application. To apply for the terminal MA wiht a specialization in cognition, see the page on the masters program. Students generally receive a teaching assistantship or research assistantship for the duration of their time at UNCG.  Things are much cheaper in North Carolina than in many other states, which means that graduate student stipends go farther here than they do in, say, New York or California.  The teaching burden is very light for students on a teaching assistantship, and usually involves grading and meeting with students or serving as a laboratory instructor.  However, students who wish to get the experience of teaching their own course are able to do so after finishing the masters degree.  There are student health services available that provide low-cost medical care.  A work office and on-campus computer or laptop are provided to all incoming students along with software to aid in their research.  Finally, students typically receive a tuition waiver that makes tuition either very inexpensive or free for up to five years.  This is true whether you are an in-state, out-of-state, or international student.

Facilities: The cognitive laboratories are well-equipped for a variety of experiments. Individual labs are equipped with the latest computers and software for experimentation, data analysis, simulation, and programming. Some labs employ eye-tracking and EEG equipment. Human participants are recruited from a large pool of undergraduate volunteers and it is typical for laboratories to run hundreds or even thousands of participants every year. Dr. Touron also maintains a pool of older adult volunteers from the community. The student body and surrounding community are diverse and representative of the population of North Carolina.

Courses:  We teach courses on general cognitive psychology, memory, cognitive processes in children and the elderly, reasoning and concept formation, intelligence, and attention. Specialized seminars are offered regularly on topics ranging from information processing and imagery to problem solving and reasoning.  In addition, the quantitative area provides excellent opportunities for students to acquire the mathematical and statistical skills that they need to succeed in 21st century science.

Philosophy of Training:  Overall, our philosophy can be summed up as cooperative.  Students work directly with a faculty advisor, but have considerable freedom to collaborate with other faculty and students in psychology and in other departments.  We encourage students to publish with several faculty members before they graduate.  The small size of the program means that students receive a lot of individualized attention.  Also, the central location of the "gate city" (Greensboro) has resulted in close ties to other top southeastern psychology departments, creating more opportunities for our graduate students to take courses, collaborate, and network.

Brown Bag: The cognitive area brown bag lecture series is open to the public and people from many different departments attend. While it is usually focused on the departmental theme of executive control and executive functioning, other topics of interest are welcomed. All talks are held Fridays at 3:30 PM in Eberhart 292, unless otherwise noted. To receive regular announcements about the brown bags, contact Mike Kane (

For additional information about graduate study in cognitive psychology,
please contact Dr. Peter Delaney,, (336) 256-0010