Designing and Interpreting Psychophysical Investigations of Cognition

Michael L. Waskom, Gouki Okazawa, Roozbeh Kiani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Scientific experimentation depends on the artificial control of natural phenomena. The inaccessibility of cognitive processes to direct manipulation can make such control difficult to realize. Here, we discuss approaches for overcoming this challenge. We advocate the incorporation of experimental techniques from sensory psychophysics into the study of cognitive processes such as decision making and executive control. These techniques include the use of simple parameterized stimuli to precisely manipulate available information and computational models to jointly quantify behavior and neural responses. We illustrate the potential for such techniques to drive theoretical development, and we examine important practical details of how to conduct controlled experiments when using them. Finally, we highlight principles guiding the use of computational models in studying the neural basis of cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-112
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 9 2019


  • behavior
  • cognition
  • computational models
  • experimental design
  • psychophysics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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