What is cognitive psychology? As a child, you likely learned a variety of mnemonic devices. Perhaps “ROY G. BIV” told you the order of rainbow hues, “All Cows Eat Grass” helped you to read sheet music, or an amusing nine-word statement helped you keep the planets in order. Although Pluto has since been downgraded, the importance of mnemonic devices endures. Such memory strategies and other mental processes are the subject matter of cognitive psychology. The history of psychology is marked by revolutions in thought: practitioners accept a dominant paradigm until some psychological publication or cultural phenomenon leads to mass reorientation. The “cognitive revolution” took place in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Not coincidentally, it occurred just as modern computer technology was emerging. Cognitive theorists consider the computer to be an apt metaphor for the human brain: both are information processors. Prior to the cognitive revolution, most psychologists were behaviorists. They were chiefly concerned with behavioral responses to stimuli — not with why those behaviors were taking place. Cognitive psychology combined the behaviorists’ scientific method with an interest in internal mental states. Today, some major research areas in cognitive psychology include: attention; language; memory; perception; and problem solving. What types of degrees are available? Degrees in cognitive psychology are granted at the bachelor, master, and doctoral levels. Most jobs in cognitive psychology require a graduate degree. At the undergraduate level, general psychology programs are much more plentiful than cognitive psychology programs. However, concentrations in cognition are available to general psychology students. These provide adequate preparation for graduate study. At any level of higher education, it is common to combine cognitive psychology with another area of study. For example, computer science and cognitive psychology are a popular combination for people interested in linguistics and artificial intelligence. What occupations are available? Many cognitive psychologists conduct research about mental processes. This may be applied research – research that is directed at a particular problem – or basic research, which generates knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Researchers are typically employed by universities and government agencies. Other cognitive psychologists work for corporations and as independent consultants. For example, software companies hire cognitive psychologists to enhance human-computer interactions by applying knowledge of attention and perception. A variety of industries hire cognitive psychologists to support employee development or to develop incentive programs. Which schools offer degrees? As mentioned above, cognitive psychology undergraduate programs are in short supply. Carnegie Mellon and the University of Kansas are among the few schools offering programs that lead to the B.S. in cognitive psychology. Other schools, such as the University of California at San Diego, offer concentrations in cognitive psychology along with a general psychology degree. Prospective undergraduate students might also be interested in cognitive science programs. These are interdisciplinary and include cognitive psychology. Northwestern University offers one such program. Links to top-ranked graduate schools can be found through this U.S. News & World Report website. Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and Harvard topped the list in 2009. Of course, graduate schools should not be chosen for their prestige alone; students should apply to schools that focus on their special area of interest within cognitive psychology.