4 Tutorials that teach Careers in Psychology: Cognitive & Neurological
Take your pick:
Careers in Psychology: Cognitive & Neurological

Careers in Psychology: Cognitive & Neurological

Author: Erick Taggart

This lesson will define and differentiate the various career specialties within the cognitive and brain-based areas of psychology. Emphasis will be placed on the typical duties and setting(s) for each specialty.

See More
Try a College Course Free

Sophia’s self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

28 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

253 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 22 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


Source: MRI machine Public Domain: http://bit.ly/VUJM63; School Girls Public Domain: http://bit.ly/TaPcN8; Children in Class Public Domain:http://bit.ly/GKulFh

Video Transcription

Download PDF

Hello, class.

In these lessons, we're going to be looking at some of the different specialties that you might be looking into if you're considering a career in psychology.

The first one that we're going to consider today is under the general category of cognitive and neurological psychology. The main question that is being answered under cognitive neurological psychology is, how does it work? How does the brain function, and how does it create certain mental processes and events. A lot of what is considered cognitive and neurological is research-based, which is say it takes place at universities, in labs, and a lot of it is government-funded. Which isn't to say that other areas aren't research-based, as well. Generally, though, this one fits under the purview of the biological perspective. There are experiments being done to try to determine why certain things happen. So let's take a look at some of the fields under this area of study.

The first related area of study under cognitive and neurological psychology is biopsychology. We studied this before. Biopsychology is how the physical, chemical, and biological processes in our bodies influence the way we think, we feel, we perceive. We're trying to figure out what those biological underpinnings are for all the psychological concepts that we come up with in psychology.

Biopsychologists make use of an array of different tools to understand how the brain functions. Things like the CT scan, which essentially takes a 3-D x-ray of the brain. Or the MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which uses a magnetic field to help show the internal structures of the brain. These things help us to understand the structure of the brain. What it looks like.

There are also tools that we use to help understand the function of the brain. These are things like an EEG, or Electroencephalogram, which measures the electric activity of the brain as certain things are happening. Or the PET scan, P-E-T scan, which uses radioactive isotopes in the brain, to help see where certain areas of activity are. And also the FMRI, which is similar to the MRI. It uses that magnetic field, but it also helps to see how different changes occur over time. So you get a 3-D image over time, as well.

A biopsychologist might also make use of electrodes, which directly stimulate different parts of the brain and nervous system, to see how that might affect things.

A related area of study under by biopsychology is sensory and perception psychology. These are psychologists that study how the different sense organs work, as well as the processes that go into perception. These are things like how we see, smell, taste, hear, and feel.

As an example, when I was an undergrad in psychology, I participated in experiments in a smell laboratory, where they were studying how smelling different types of things might affect physical stimulation. They were measuring what was going on with my skin, and the electric activity there, and how that related to the different things that they were injecting, so that I could smell. It was a really interesting study. That's the sort of thing that they might do.

Other areas of study under cognitive and neurological psychology make use of a more psychological approach, under our modern and contemporary approaches. An example of this is cognitive development as a psychology. Under cognitive development, we're trying to figure out how the mind and the brain develop over time, from childhood to adulthood. As a reference, you might remember that we talked a bit about Piaget's stages of cognitive development. That would be an example of this. Again, we'll study this more later on in the course.

An area of study of this is developmental psychology, where we try to learn how progressive changes in behavior and abilities occur from conception-- when a child is born-- all the way to the time of death. As an example, under developmental linguistics, where they study how children acquire language, they show different stages of language acquisition occurring.

For example-- and you might have some familiarity with this-- a child generally starts babbling with different types of language. They might start with simple syllables, like Ba, ba, ba, repeating them over and over. And then they start to develop, and to combine their babbling so that there are different things occurring. Like ba-da ba-da, ba-da. Then they go on to single-word phrases, where they learn how to say things like yes, or no, or mom. And then they start to combine those words together, eventually making phrases, until they finally develop and understand the different linguistic, grammatical rules that go into native speaking of a language.

So this is the kind of thing that you might study under this area.

One other area of study, to round up our overview of cognitive and neurological psychology, is educational psychology. Under educational psychology, as you might expect, psychologists study how people learn, and how teachers instruct different students. When we talk about different learning theories-- which is to say, explaining what is learning, and how do people learn-- a lot of these educational learning theories start to relate to different classical theories of psychology.

For example, we say there's behavioral learning theory, which is to study the effects of outside stimuli on how people are learning. Cognitive constructivist theory, which is how people put together knowledge, and construct it in their own minds. As well as sociocultural theory. How learning occurs as a social process, and eventually gets internalized into our brains.

Along with this, a lot of educational psychologists study what are the optimal conditions for learning. They want to figure out how best to construct schools and classrooms, so that students are getting the most out of there learning. So this is a very applied field of psychology. As an example, with English language learners, people who have English as their second language, there's been a lot of debate about whether more strictly rules-based approaches to education-- things like grammar and phonics-- are better, or if people that are learning English learn it better within a meaningful context. In other words, they learn other content area as they're starting to acquire English language. Contemporary theories tend to veer towards the latter. They think that understanding within a context helps you to develop language faster, and in a more meaningful way.

Terms to Know

Genetics, nervous system, brain, endocrine system or other physiological root of behavior and mental processes.

Cognitive Psychology

How humans encode, store, process and retrieve information.

Developmental Psychology

Examine lifespan psychology and the progress of changes and abilities.

Educational Psychology

Studies and helps students in schools and other educational setting; administer psychological testing, construct referrals, assist with classroom learning, counseling students, assess learning disabilities, devise plans for students with learning disabilities.

Learning Psychology

Studies theories of learning, how and why learning occurs.

Sensory and Perception

Sense organs and how the brain makes sense of, or perceives, that information.