Psychology 4195F 001 FW23

Special Topics in Cognitive Psychology: "Individual Differences in Cognitive Neuroscience"

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.



LONDON               CANADA 

Department of Psychology 



Psychology 4195F Section 001 


Individual Differences in Cognitive Neuroscience 





This SPECIAL TOPICS IN COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY course focuses on individual differences in cognitive neuroscience. 


Antirequisites: Not Applicable  


Antirequisites are courses that overlap sufficiently in content that only one can be taken for credit. If you take a course that is an antirequisite to a course previously taken, you will lose credit for the earlier course, regardless of the grade achieved in the most recent course. 


Prerequisite: Psychology 2820E, or both of Psychology 2800E and Psychology 2810, plus registration in third or fourth year Honours Specialization in Psychology, Honours Specialization in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Honours Specialization in Neuroscience, or Honours Specialization in Animal Behaviour. Other Psychology students and Psychology Special Students who receive 75% in the prerequisite courses may enrol in this course. 


Requisites / Prerequisites: Both Psychology 2801F/G and Psychology 2811A/B, or the former Psychology 2820E, or both the former Psychology 2800E and the former Psychology 2810, PLUS registration in fourth year Main Campus Honours Specialization in Psychology, Honours Specialization in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Honours Specialization in Neuroscience, or Honours Specialization in Animal Behaviour. Fourth year Main Campus Psychology students and Main Campus Psychology Special Students who receive 75% in the prerequisite courses may enrol in this course.  


Lecture Hours: 3h 

Course Weight: 0.5  


Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enrol in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites. 





Instructor: Dr. Stefan Köhler  

Office and Phone Number:  WIRB 5138; 519-661-2111 ext. 86364 

Office Hours: by appointment online  



Teaching Assistant: TBA  

Office: WIRB  

Office Hours: by appointment 

Email: TBA 


Time and Location of Classes: Available on Student Center

Delivery Method: In-Person 


Students who are in emotional/mental distress should refer to Health and Wellness @Western for a complete list of options about how to obtain help. 


Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also contact Accessible Education at  or 519-661-2147. 




2.1 Online Learning Notice: 

Please note: For courses delivered in an online format, include an online component, or are required to pivot online, students must have a reliable internet connection and computer that are compatible with online learning system requirements. Some courses may also require the use of a remote proctoring platform to ensure assessments are taken fairly in accordance with Western’s policy on Scholastic Discipline for Undergraduate Students and Scholastic Discipline for Graduate Students. Please refer to the course syllabus for further information. 




There will be no textbook for this course. There will be approximately 3 - 5 published scientific papers assigned for each session (primary research papers and reviews). Assigned readings will be made available through links or pdfs on the course website in OWL. 




Course Objectives 


The vast majority of what is currently known about the neural underpinnings of human cognition has come from experimental paradigms that involve averaging of data from multiple subjects, with the goal of deriving conclusions that generalize to a broader population. Yet, psychologists have recognized for a long time that individuals differ in cognitive abilities, cognitive biases, and the cognitive strategies they bring to bear on the kind of tasks employed to understand brain-behaviour relationships. Neuroscientists acknowledge that no two human brains are the same, with variability in brain anatomy and function arising from a mix of genetic and environmental factors, as well as from individuals’ unique past learning histories. With the growing appreciation of diversity in society at large, current research in cognitive neuroscience is increasingly considering the influence of demographic factors (e.g., sex, gender, and age), and scientists are increasingly turning to a targeted examination of interindividual differences in brain, mind, and behaviour. This trend is going hand in hand with the realization that combining an individual-differences approach with experimental paradigms also helps to improve mechanistic accounts and constrain theories of cognitive phenomena. The general goal of the present course is to review progress in this endeavor in the field of human cognitive neuroscience.  






The specific goals are 


  1. to provide a research-oriented overview of methodology, findings, theories, and contentious issues in the study of interindividual differences in cognitive neuroscience
  2. to encourage reading and writing about primary source material in cognitive neuroscience; to encourage critical thinking and to explore the limits of current scientific knowledge in the field
  3. to provide training opportunities for public (in-class) presentations on specific research questions in cognitive neuroscience and their empirical study; to offer opportunities for participation in public (in-class) discussion of scientific issues.


Learning Outcomes 


Learning Outcome 

Learning Activity 



Knowledge and Understanding 

Understand key concepts and research findings that address how interindividual differences play out in the human mind and brain 

Understand key methods used to study individual differences in human cognitive neuroscience 


Appreciate applications of research on individual differences outside the laboratory, and potential translation of findings to the understanding of clinical disorders 










Participation in class discussion  

Preparing class presentations 

Writing thought papers 










Quiz exam 

Class participation 

Class presentations 

Thought papers 




Critical Thinking 

Connect, organize, and synthesize research  


Appreciate limits of current knowledge in research on individual differences 


Generate questions for follow-up research and design experiments to address them 





Preparing class presentations 

Participation in class discussion 

Writing thought papers 

Writing final essay 









Quiz exam 

Class presentations 

Class participation 

Thought papers 

Final essay 






Communicate ideas, methods, and findings from research on individual differences in oral form 


Communicate ideas, methods, and findings from research on individual differences in written form 


Participation in class discussion  

Preparing class presentations 




Writing thought papers 

Writing final essay 

Class participation 

Class presentations 




Quiz exam 

Thought papers 

Final essay 






The evaluation and testing formats for this course were created to assess the learning objectives as listed in section 4.0 and are considered necessary for meeting these learning objectives. 



Students are expected (i) to attend all classes, (ii) to read all assigned course material, and (iii) to actively participate in class discussions. Students will be asked to select 2 research articles for a presentation (typically in groups of 2) and prepare questions for in-class discussion. Students will also be asked to write thought papers on a subset of the course readings. Some of this discussion will take place in break-out groups. A quiz exam will be administered to probe knowledge of foundations and methods early on in the term. An essay with a research proposal on one of the topics of the course will be required at the end of term. Evaluation will be based on five different course components. 


Grade breakdown for course evaluation: 

  1. Quiz exam 10% of total grade
  2. 2. Course participation 6% of total grade  
  3. 3. Scholarly final essay (incl. outline) 35% of total grade 
  4. 4. In-class presentations 34% of total grade 
  5. 5. Thought papers 15% of total grade



Quiz Exam 

This exam will cover the materials from the lectures, videos, and readings of the first three classes (Introduction, Foundations, Methods). Mixed format: multiple choice and short answers. 


Thought Papers 

Students are required to write three thought papers (maximum 500 words) on assigned readings over the course of the term. Thought papers are intended to be brief reflections on assigned readings that are meant to facilitate in-class discussion. Due dates for these papers will be determined for each student in the first two weeks of the course. Thought papers must be uploaded to the course website by 12 noon on these due dates.  



Students are required to give two presentations on assigned primary research papers (one presentation per paper) over the course of the term. Presentations must offer a full summary of the article and will typically be given in groups of 2 students. Presentations are expected to be 15 min in length and supported by visual aids (e.g., PowerPoint), followed by up to 15 min of Q & A. Students are encouraged to include questions and comments in their presentations so as to stimulate discussion in the Q & A period. They are also expected to be prepared to answer any questions about the articles they present. Presentation dates for each student will be determined in the first two weeks of the course.  


Essay Proposal and Essay 

Students are required to submit an essay on a topic covered in this course. The paper must be a proposal for a research project that would follow up on research covered in this course. Essays are expected to include (i) an introduction with a brief review of pertinent background, (ii) the specification of the critical research question and a justification why it is important, (iii) a description of research methods and the study design proposed to answer that question, (iv) a description of anticipated results, and (v) a summary of conclusions that can be drawn if the outcome is as expected.  The essay should not exceed a maximum of 8 double-spaced pages (i.e., between 1800 and 2300 words in 12 point font) excluding cover page and references. Prior to essay submission students are required to submit a proposal with their plans (maximum 400 words). The deadline of the proposal is Tuesday November 14 2023 at 1:30pm. The deadline for submitting essays is Tuesday December 5 2023 at 1:30pm. Essay proposals and essays must be submitted electronically through the OWL course website.  


Class Participation 

Students are expected to participate regularly in class discussion, and they will be graded based on the extent of their participation. Students should be prepared to be addressed directly by the course instructor in these discussions.  





There will be a penalty for late submissions (10% per day) of thought papers, the essay outline, and the essay.  


If individual thought papers are missed due to illness or other extenuating circumstances approved by Academic Counselling, they will be pro-rated in the final grade.  


Presentations will be rescheduled if missed due to illness or other extenuating circumstances approved by Academic Counselling. If rescheduling is not feasible, students may be asked to upload a recorded version on OWL instead (at a time determined by the course instructor). If only one of the presenters is available at the originally assigned spot they will be encouraged to offer their presentation individually. Presentations missed without accommodation by Academic Counselling will be assigned a 0 mark.  


Participation in up to two classes missed due to illness or other extenuating circumstances (approved by the course instructor) will be reweighted over participation in remaining classes. If more than two classes are missed, there will be a loss of 0.5 participation marks (out of maximum of 6 marks) for each missed class. If students require a longer-term accommodation (lasting more than a week) for absences due to a health concern or other extenuating circumstances, they are asked to seek approval through academic counseling. 


Quiz exams will be rescheduled as make-up exams if missed due to illness or other extenuating circumstances approved by Academic Counselling. If make-up exams are missed, a mark of 0 will be assigned. 


PLEASE NOTE: Because this is an essay course, as per Senate Regulations, you must pass the essay component to pass the course. That is, the mark for your written take-home assignments (thought papers, essay outline, and essay combined), must be at least 50%. 


This course is exempt from the Senate requirement that students receive assessment of their work accounting for at least 15% of their final grade at least three full days before the date of the deadline for withdrawal from a course without academic penalty. 



The expectation for course grades within the Psychology Department is that they will be distributed around the following averages: 


70% 1000-level to 2099-level courses 

72% 2100-2999-level courses 

75% 3000-level courses 

80% 4000-level courses 


The Psychology Department follows Western’s grading guidelines, which are as follows (see: 


A+ 90-100 One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level 

A 80-89 Superior work that is clearly above average 

B 70-79 Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory 

C 60-69 Competent work, meeting requirements 

D 50-59 Fair work, minimally acceptable 

F below 50 Fail 


Note that in the event that course grades are significantly higher or lower than these averages, instructors may be required to make adjustments to course grades. Such adjustment might include the normalization of one or more course components and/or the re-weighting of various course components. 


Policy on Grade Rounding: Please note that although course grades within the Psychology Department are rounded to the nearest whole number, no further grade rounding will be done. No additional assignments will be offered to enhance a final grade; nor will requests to change a grade because it is needed for a future program be considered. To maximize your grade, do your best on each and every assessment within the course. 





Quiz Exam 

There will be a 30 minute quiz exam on October 10 2023 at 1:30pm. This quiz will cover the materials from the lectures, videos, and readings of the first three classes (Introduction, Foundations, Methods). Mixed format: multiple choice and short answers.  


Thought Papers 

Due dates for thought papers will be determined for each student at the start of the course. Thought papers must be uploaded to the course website by 12 noon on these due dates (TBD).  



Presentation dates will be determined for each student at the start of the course (TBD). 


Essay Proposal and Essay 

The deadline of the proposal is Tuesday November 14 2023 at 1:30pm 


The deadline for submitting essays is Tuesday December 5 2022 at 1:30pm 


Essay proposals and essays must be submitted electronically through the OWL course website.  





September 12 2023 

General Introduction 

September 19 2023 

Foundations & Methods I 

September 26 2023 

Foundations & Methods II 

October 3 2023 

Cognitive domain: Face perception 

October 10 2023 

Quiz Exam + Cognitive domain: Synaesthesia I 

October 17 2023 

Cognitive domain: Synaesthesia II 

October 24 2023 

Cognitive domain: Pitch perception (with guest Dr. S. Van Hedger) 

October 31 2023 

Reading Week: No Class 

November 7 2023 

Cognitive domain: Imagery  

November 14 2023 

Cognitive domain: Autobiographical memory (with guest Dr. D. Palombo) 

November 21 2023 

Cognitive domain: Navigation 

November 28 2023 

Cognitive domain: Creativity I 

December 5 2023 

Cognitive domain: Creativity II 


Assigned readings for each session will be specified and made available on OWL (3 - 5 published scientific papers per session). 





We acknowledge that Western University is located on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak and Attawandaron peoples, on lands connected with the London Township and Sombra Treaties of 1796 and the Dish with One Spoon Covenant Wampum. 


With this, we respect the longstanding relationships that Indigenous Nations have to this land, as they are the original caretakers. We acknowledge historical and ongoing injustices that Indigenous Peoples (e.g. First Nations, Métis and Inuit) endure in Canada, and we accept responsibility as a public institution to contribute toward revealing and correcting miseducation, as well as renewing respectful relationships with Indigenous communities through our teaching, research and community service. 





Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offences. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offences because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offence are described at the following link: 


As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offences. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and ( 


Computer-marked multiple-choice tests and/or exams will be subject to submission for similarity review by software that will check for unusual coincidences in answer patterns that may indicate cheating. 


In classes that involve the use of a personal response system (PRS), data collected using the PRS will only be used in a manner consistent to that described in this outline. It is the instructor’s responsibility to make every effort to ensure that data remain confidential. However, students should be aware that as with all forms of electronic communication, privacy is not guaranteed. Your PRS login credentials are for your sole use only. Students attempting to use another student’s credentials to submit data through the PRS may be subject to academic misconduct proceedings.  


Possible penalties for a scholastic offence include failure of the assignment/exam, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University. 



Tests and examinations for online courses will be conducted using a remote proctoring service. By taking this course, you are consenting to the use of this software and acknowledge that you will be required to provide personal information (including some biometric data) and the session will be recorded.  Completion of this course will require you to have a reliable internet connection and a device that meets the technical requirements for this service. More information about this remote proctoring service, including technical requirements, is available on Western’s Remote Proctoring website at: 

In the event that in-person exams are unexpectedly canceled, you may only be given notice of the use of a proctoring service a short time in advance. 




Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 


If you experience an extenuating circumstance (e.g., illness, injury) sufficiently significant to temporarily make you unable to meet academic requirements, you may request accommodation through the following routes:  

  1. For medical absences, submitting a Student Medical Certificate (SMC) signed by a licensed medical or mental health practitioner in order to be eligible for Academic Consideration;  
  1. For non-medical absences, submitting appropriate documentation (e.g., obituary, police report, accident report, court order, etc.) to Academic Counselling in their Faculty of registration in order to be eligible for academic consideration. Students are encouraged to contact their Academic Counselling unit to clarify what documentation is appropriate. 


Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation. 


Students seeking academic consideration: 

  • are advised to consider carefully the implications of postponing tests or midterm exams or delaying handing in work;   
  • must communicate with their instructors no later than 24 hours after the end of the period covered SMC, or immediately upon their return following a documented absence 


Students seeking accommodation for religious purposes are advised to contact Academic Counselling at least three weeks prior to the religious event and as soon as possible after the start of the term. 




In the event of a COVID-19 resurgence or any other event that necessitates the course delivery moving away from face-to-face interaction, all remaining course content will be delivered entirely online, either synchronously (i.e., at the times indicated in the timetable) or asynchronously (e.g., posted on OWL for students to view at their convenience). The grading scheme will not change. Any remaining assessments will also be conducted online, as determined by the course instructor. 




In courses involving online interactions, the Psychology Department expects students to honour the following rules of etiquette: 

  • please “arrive” to class on time 
  • please use your computer and/or laptop if possible (as opposed to a cell phone or tablet) 
  • please ensure that you are in a private location to protect the confidentiality of discussions in the event that a class discussion deals with sensitive or personal material 
  • to minimize background noise, kindly mute your microphone for the entire class until you are invited to speak, unless directed otherwise 
  • In classes larger than 30 participants please turn off your video camera for the entire class unless you are invited to speak 
  • In classes of 30 students or fewer, where video chat procedures are being used, please be prepared to turn your video camera off at the instructor’s request if the internet connection becomes unstable 
  • Unless invited by your instructor, do not share your screen in the meeting 


The course instructor will act as moderator for the class and will deal with any questions from participants. To participate please consider the following: 

  • If you wish to speak, use the “raise hand” function and wait for the instructor to acknowledge you before beginning your comment or question. 
  • Please remember to unmute your microphone and turn on your video camera before speaking. 
  • Self-identify when speaking. 
  • Please remember to mute your mic and turn off your video camera after speaking (unless directed otherwise). 


General considerations of “netiquette”: 

  • Keep in mind the different cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the students in the course. 
  • Be courteous toward the instructor, your colleagues, and authors whose work you are discussing. 
  • Be respectful of the diversity of viewpoints that you will encounter in the class and in your readings. The exchange of diverse ideas and opinions is part of the scholarly environment. “Flaming” is never appropriate. 
  • Be professional and scholarly in all online postings. Use proper grammar and spelling. Cite the ideas of others appropriately. 


Note that disruptive behaviour of any type during online classes, including inappropriate use of the chat function, is unacceptable. Students found guilty of Zoom-bombing a class or of other serious online offenses may be subject to disciplinary measures under the Code of Student Conduct. 




Office of the Registrar:   


Student Development Services:  


Psychology Undergraduate Program: 


If you wish to appeal a grade, please read the policy documentation at: 

Please first contact the course instructor. If your issue is not resolved, you may make your appeal to the Undergraduate Chair in Psychology ( 


Copyright Statement: Lectures and course materials, including power point presentations, outlines, videos and similar materials, are protected by copyright. You may take notes and make copies of course materials for your own educational use. You may not record lectures, reproduce (or allow others to reproduce), post or distribute any course materials publicly and/or for commercial purposes without the instructor’s written consent. 


Policy on the Recording of Synchronous Sessions: Some or all of the remote learning sessions for this course (if scheduled) may be recorded. The data captured during these recordings may include your image, voice recordings, chat logs and personal identifiers (name displayed on the screen). The recordings will be used for educational purposes related to this course, including evaluations. The recordings may be disclosed to other individuals participating in the course for their private or group study purposes. Please contact the instructor if you have any concerns related to session recordings. Participants in this course are not permitted to privately record the sessions, except where recording is an approved accommodation, or the student has the prior written permission of the instructor.