Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}

Independent Study

The Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science offers a number of undergraduate-level independent study courses. Independent study provides students an opportunity to explore their educational interests while working one-on-one with a faculty member.

Students can earn Cognitive Science independent study credit for...

  • Working as a Research Assistant (RA) in a Cognitive Science related research lab

  • Conducting their own research (i.e., creating, running, and analyzing a research experiment; conducting a secondary analysis for pre-existing data sets; conducting and analyzing the results of an online survey; developing computational models of data; conducting a quantitative meta-analysis; etc.), including research for a Cognitive Science Honors Thesis

  • Performing an in-depth study of a Cognitive Science topic

Students cannot earn Cognitive Science independent study credit for...

  • Internships or experiential learning

    • We encourage students who would like to earn (non-CogSci) credit during their internship experience to check out ALA 225

  • Research in non-Cognitive Science fields, including research projects of an “applied nature” (for example, a research project that is purely focused on marketing without connection to consumer behavior or another cognitive-based theory)

  • Research under the mentorship of a graduate student. 

    • Unfortunately, mentors for independent study projects must be faculty members or lecturers. Students may work with graduate students throughout the course of their project, but their official mentor must be a faculty member.

How to Register for a CogSci Independent Study

1. Find a research mentor or faculty sponsor

If you need support finding a research mentor/faculty sponsor, you may find the links below helpful:

  • Research Laboratories: On this website you will see a list of Cognitive Science related labs. 

  • Faculty Research Interests: This website will allow you to search for faculty who are doing research with your topic of interest. If a list of faculty appears after your search, check their research and teaching interests description on their profile. Contact the faculty if you want to know more about their research project or want to ask for opportunities to work in their lab.

2. Submit an Independent Study Application

If you would like to receive credit for your independent study, please fill out the Independent Study Request Form once you have decided on your project with your research mentor/faculty sponsor. 

Course Options:

Please note, Cognitive Science majors may take a minimum of three credits of Independent Study (COGSCI 497 or 498) to fulfill one elective requirement or six credits (COGSCI 497 and either 498 or 499) to fulfill two elective requirements. A maximum of two elective requirements may be fulfilled using independent study.

  • COGSCI 497: Directed Research in Cognitive Science
    Allows students to work closely with a faculty member on a Cognitive Science research project (e.g., working in a research lab, collecting & analyzing data, undertaking a literature review, developing a computational model). Final Product: paper, poster, presentation, computational model, etc.

  • COGSCI 498: Independent Study for Cognitive Science
    Allows students to work closely with a faculty member on an in-depth study of a Cognitive Science topic (i.e., analyzing an already existing data set, conducting a qualitative meta-analysis, etc.). Final Product: comprehensive research paper

  • COGSCI 499: Senior Honors Research for Cognitive Science
    The Cognitive Science Honors provide majors with the in-depth research experience of writing an honors thesis under the close supervision of a faculty member. For more details about Cognitive Science Honors Thesis, please visit this page. Final Product: Honors Thesis.

3. Receive an override and register for the course

Once your independent study application has been approved, you will receive a permission to register for the course.

4. Submit your final product

All students who pursue a Cognitive Science Independent Study are required to submit their final product upon successful completion of their independent study. Please submit to

Sample Projects

Creating Scripts for the Michigan Neural Distinctiveness Project (MiND)
Faculty Mentor: Thad Polk
Student’s Track: Computation

The Michigan Neural Distinctiveness (MiND) Project investigates the structural, functional, and chemical changes that underlie behavioral impairments associated with healthy aging (e.g., declines in processing speed, working memory, sensory domains such as vision and motor skills).

This student’s project focused on studying white matter differences between older and younger adults. For the project, the student created scripts to pre-process and analyze multi-shell diffusion weighted images. This student pre-processed data, ran quality control checks, analyzed data, and visualized results. At the end of the semester, the results of the project were shared in a presentation to lab members.

The Cognitive Science of Mind Wandering
Faculty Mentor: Chandra Sripada
Student’s Track: Philosophy

The goal of this project is to understand how mind wandering reflects an individual's personal concerns. The student conducted a two-part process for research participants. In part one, the participant verbalizes spontaneous thoughts in isolation for thirty minutes. In part two, the participants complete an interview about their current personal concerns. The student also conducted an extensive literature review and created a coding scheme to analyze the transcripts.

Exploring the Correlation Between Types of Empathy and Types of Giving Behavior
Faculty Mentor: Stephanie Preston
Student’s Track: Decision

The goal of this project is to use Mark Davis’ Interpersonal Reactivity Index to examine subjects’ decision making in terms of altruistic giving to non-profit organizations, specifically how the cognitive mechanism of perspective taking impacts decisions to give to non-profit organizations. The student hypothesizes that higher scores on the perspective-taking subscale will correlate with greater willingness to give to a non-profit that does not align with an individual’s own political ideologies, higher scores on the empathic concern subscale will correlate with willingness to give, higher scores in the personal distress subscale will correlate with lower willingness to give, and higher scores on the fantasy scale will have no correlation with willingness to give. The student will analyze these correlations based on the results of a survey they created. At the end of the semester, the student plans to complete a paper that further investigates how the correlations between each subscale and giving behavior and will go into additional detail about the correlation between the perspective-taking subscale and partisanship, including an examination of partial perspective taking behaviors and how the process of distancing from the self, rather than the sharing of another's perspective can impact altruistic behavior when political differences are present.

Research Assistant in the Psycholinguistics Lab
Faculty Mentor: Julie Boland
Student’s Track: Language

This student is assisting with a research project in the psycholinguistics lab investigating L1 influence on collocation processing in intermediate Chinese speakers and near-native Chinese speakers, using English speakers with no Chinese knowledge as a control group. The student will support the project through creating a list of stimuli, running subjects in the lab, and analyzing data. At the end of the smeester, the student will present the progress made and their specific contributions.