Cognitive Science studies the mind, brain, and cognition using different types of experimental techniques. This tour aims to introduce you to some of the techniques that are commonly used.
Psychophysical experiments are designed to measure sensory differences through the feedback of the participant. This technique is used to study sensory systems such as vision, hearing, touch perception, smell, and taste. The video here shows the researcher giving mild vibratory sensations to the fingertips of the participant. The researcher takes note of the response of the participant regarding their perception of the vibrotactile stimulus. Such studies help cognitive scientists develop a deeper understanding of how our sensory systems such as the function of touch work under different conditions.
Behavioral experiments are great tools to explore cognitive and sensory processes. Behavioral experiments can be run on a computer with a stimulus presented on the screen. The participant responds to the Stimulus and their responses are noted for further analysis. In the video shown here, the participant is completing an ‘oddball task' for researchers to assess reaction time (time taken to respond) and errors. Cognitive scientists use such paradigms to explore aspects of behavior and cognition.
Cognitive scientists use computational modeling to simulate and
predict trends. The video here shows a modeled visualization of the data collected via electroencephalogram (EEG) depicting activity in the brain, where warm colours signify higher activity and cooler colours signify less activity. This technique helps researchers study complex systems associated with cognition and behaviour.
Instruments such as Electroencephalogram (EEG) help collect information regarding electrical brain activity associated with certain cognitive tasks. This method allows researchers to explore and map areas of the brain that add to our understanding of how the brain works while performing specific cognitive tasks such as facial recognition, attention, and decision making. The video here shows how the researcher places electrodes using the EEG cap on the participant for data collection.
When we look at objects or screens, our eye movement can help us explore attention and interest. The movements can be tracked via eye-tracking devices. The video here shows a simulation of how the eye moves and where the focus is on the screen. The big red dots indicate high focus while the red lines indicate the direction of movement of the eyes. This data helps cognitive scientists explore processes involved in consumer behavior, marketing, facial recognition, etc.
Researchers often use simulations to reproduce certain conditions in the lab. For example, in the video here, the robot, KINARM is simulating a spring. Though there isn’t an actual spring present, the handles of the robot put pressure on the limbs to give the participant an experience similar to moving a spring. The spring simulation can be seen in the top right corner.
Few simple yet effective tools are self-report measures, such as surveys and questionnaires. Often used in conjunction with other experimental techniques, the information helps cognitive scientists explore attitudes, beliefs, and emotional states of participants.