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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Cognitive Psychology Graduate Overview

Our department has eliminated the GRE General Test for admission to the fall 2021 class. We will NOT accept or consider GRE scores for applications submitted this fall 2020. Applicants should NOT submit their GRE scores through ETS nor report their scores in the application portal or on their CVs or personal statements. All interviews for fall 2021 admission will be virtual.

The Cognitive Psychology program offers graduate training leading to a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology with the possibility to include a "Neuroscience Concentration" as an area of specialization. Research in the area is centered on using rigorous methods and theory to understand fundamental mechanisms underlying cognitive and neural processing. Research on cognitive and perceptual processes, such as visual perception, memory, attention, knowledge development, concepts and categories, problem solving, and decision making, contributes to our understanding of human behavior in individual and social environments and provides the structure on which to build applications to improve health and behavior.

Program of Study


The curriculum in is designed to provide students with the essential coursework and laboratory research experience necessary for an academic or research career in cognitive psychology, broadly defined. The coursework spans three areas:

  1. methods, techniques, and statistics;
  2. cognitive and neural bases of behavior;
  3. breadth of training.

Research Training

Students receive research training at the forefront of psychology. Students are assigned a primary advisor upon entry to the program and are required to actively participate in program of research supervised by a core faculty member through the duration of their program of study. Participation in these groups is designed to facilitate the development of research skills and professional development necessary for a career in psychological science. Required milestones include completion of a first-year research project, Master’s proposal and defense, qualifying exam, and Dissertation proposal and defense.


Most graduates of the program seek a research-teaching position following completion of the Ph.D. Opportunities to develop teaching skills come in the form of serving as teaching assistant in one or more classroom courses or laboratory courses often including Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Statistics, Introduction to Research Methods and the Laboratory in Cognitive Psychology.

Concentration in Neuroscience

Students who are admitted to the Cognitive Psychology Training Program may choose to complete interdisciplinary neuroscience coursework, resulting in a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology with "Neuroscience Concentration" listed as an area of specialization on your degree. Learn more about the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience graduate program.

Commitment to Diversity

Faculty make a special effort to recruit and prepare well-qualified minority students for careers in the field of cognitive psychology. The faculty and students participate in the summer research program for underrepresented minority students (Psychology Research Initiative in Diversity Enhancement, PRIDE) and the Diversifying Psychology Weekend, which is designed to prepare talented minority students for graduate school by providing a venue to network with faculty and graduate students in Psychology and get the scoop on the graduate student experience.

Financial Support


The Department of Psychology makes a determined effort to provide at financial support for all graduate students in good standing. For decades, all Psychology graduate students in good standing have been funded. Financial support consists of tuition scholarship, assistantships that provide a competitive stipend, research funding, and the opportunity for summer assistantships.

Tuition Scholarship

Students receive 24 hours of remitted tuition per year (at $1,683 per credit hour), up to 90 credits in total across the span of the graduate career, which funds the full PhD program of study. The tuition scholarship does not cover the costs of student fees or student insurance.


Students receive a competitive stipend that meets or exceeds the cost of living in Syracuse from one of several different sources including teaching assistantships, clinical assistantships, internships or externships, research assistantships, or fellowships. In most cases these are 9-month appointments although some are 12-month positions. Teaching assistants support the education of undergraduate students by teaching lab or recitation sections, grading, providing reviews, proctoring exams, or other activities. Research assistantships support a specific research project, typically one funded by extramural funding agencies such as the NIH. Fellowships provide protected time to pursue independent research projects. Clinical assistantships provide mental health services to community and campus clients. Internships and externships are offered in conjunction with community partners.

Summer Funding

Summer funding opportunities are available in the form of independent teaching, clinical assistantships, research assistantships, or fellowships.

Research Support

The department offers a research fund to support the research and professional development of each student. These funds can be used for the collection or analysis of data, to attend a scientific conference or workshop, or other purposes that will enhance student training.

Cost of Living Comparison

Syracuse is a very affordable city. We encourage you to use a cost of living comparison (like the one at this site) to compare Syracuse to other cities.


Only full-time doctorate students are considered for admission. The deadline for completed applications for admissions is December 1. Online applications are located at A complete application includes:

  1. official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work,
  2. a statement of research interests,
  3. a curriculum vitae, and
  4. three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant's academic work.
  5. Along with any other materials specified in the application
  6. Fill out the application online

An applicant's grades, GRE scores, and letters of recommendation are considered important indices of a person's potential success in graduate study and all three are taken into consideration. All applicants should include in their statement of interest a clear and concise description of their research interests and the core faculty member(s) with whom they would like to work as their research mentor(s). In addition, applicants are encouraged to submit a conference poster or original research paper if available. Please use the “Writing Sample” section of the application when uploading these documents.

Each of the Cognitive Psychology faculty listed below will be reviewing applications for Fall admission:
Michael Kalish
Amy Criss
Lael Schooler
Catherine Cornwell
David Kellen
Lynn Lohnas
Dan Corral
Jeff Zemla

Admission Standards

The admissions committee bases its decisions on the overall strength of the application and how well the skills and interest of the applicant align with faculty who are accepting students in a given year. No specific undergraduate major is required for admission, rather the collective preparation for research training by faculty is of utmost importance.

Features of the Program


The cognitive psychology area hosts a weekly proseminar where students, faculty, and visitors present their research. The proseminar is the touchstone of the program, and serves as a forum for learning about the research interests and activities of all students and faculty in the program. Speakers discuss their research, receive helpful and constructive feedback, and engage in dialogue about the state of the science. Students learn skills for communicating and critiquing research ideas, and gain knowledge about a variety of research topics, methods, and approaches.

Colloquium Series

The Department of Psychology hosts a colloquium series which brings in world-renowned scholars from across all disciplines of Psychology.

Travel Funds

The Department of Psychology has a travel fund to facilitate students’ attendance at conferences to present their research.

Multi-disciplinary Collaborations

Syracuse University and the Syracuse community provide a wide array of facilities for learning including excellent research laboratories, computer facilities and libraries. Cognitive psychology faculty and their research labs collaborate with faculty in other departments and programs at Syracuse University and with researchers in Europe, China and Australia. The interdisciplinary Aging Studies Institute at Syracuse University, Neuroscience program, and the Center for Advanced Systems and Engineering are of special interest to some of the faculty and students in Cognition, Brain & Behavior.

Mentoring Undergraduates in Research

Cognitive psychology faculty and graduate students are committed to mentoring undergraduates in research. Undergraduates are co-authors on several conference presentation and publications resulting from these mentoring relationships. Graduate students have the opportunity to build their mentoring skills. Of particular importance, cognitive psychology faculty and students participate in the summer research program for underrepresented minority students (Psychology Research Initiative in Diversity Enhancement, PRIDE)

Graduate Handbook

Full details of the program of study can be found in the Cognitive Graduate handbook.

Contact Us

For more information about the program, visit the Frequently Asked Questions page.
Please direct requests to: