The primary focus of the Developmental, Cognitive, and Affective Sciences program is research training with a faculty mentor. PhD students focus their investigations within developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, or affective sciences. Most of the students who complete our program pursue research and/or teaching careers.

The DCAS graduate program is offered full-time and in-person only.

In the first year, students take Research Design and Quantitative Analysis I and II, along with content area-relevant courses, and complete the first-year clerkship. In the first-year clerkship, students work on a research project with their primary advisor.

In the second year, students complete their M.A. degree. (For students who already have a M.A., some coursework may transfer, but we generally do not accept the M.A. in place of completing a M.A. thesis within our program.) The master’s thesis represents a substantial research project led by the student. Students typically complete two of their three special examinations (e.g., presenting research at a conference, submitting a research article, applying for a grant) during this year. We do not offer a terminal M.A. degree in the DCAS Program; however, all students must earn a M.A. degree prior to advancement to doctoral candidacy of in the Ph.D. program.

The third, fourth and fifth years are devoted to continuing research in the student’s area of specialization by means of submitting a dissertation proposal, conducting research, and taking advanced courses. Students also gain teaching experience during this time. Normally, the doctoral dissertation is completed by the end of the fifth year.

Students attend DCAS research talks and Departmental colloquia throughout their time in the program. Students are strongly encouraged to attend and present their research at regional, national, and international conferences. Students are also encouraged to collaborate, in consultation with their primary advisor, with other faculty and students within and outside the DCAS program.

Please contact the DCAS Director with any questions.

Developmental Psychology Track

The emphasis in developmental psychology focuses on the emergence and maturation of basic psychological processes – attention, perception, learning, memory, language and cognition – from birth through adolescence. Affective, motivation, temperament, and self-regulation processes that affect cognitive development are also examined. A major emphasis in the developmental area is on individual differences in development, with research directed at understanding both risk and resiliency. Laboratories with a developmental focus include those directed by Dr. Anastasia Dimitropoulos, Dr. Elizabeth Short, and Dr. Lee Thompson. In addition to core courses in developmental psychology, students take a number of advanced seminars intended to deepen their knowledge in such areas as childhood psychopathology, neurodevelopmental disorders and behavioral genetics. Students also are given instruction and supervised experience in child and adult assessment to acquaint them with a variety of methods and techniques employed in research with children from birth through adolescence. A number of laboratory facilities and subject populations are available for study at CWRU. The department maintains extensive Developmental Laboratories designed to study developmental aspects of learning, cognition, and language acquisition in infants, children, and adolescents. Many of the child laboratories are housed in the state of the art Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center (CHSC). Clinical interview rooms and playrooms are available for research and assessment at both CHSC and Mather Memorial. Hospital facilities and collaborations include newborn nurseries at University Hospitals, the Perinatal Research Unit at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, and the psychiatry departments at both University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic. The department also has a strong working relationship with area public and private schools (i.e., Laurel School, Lawrence School, The Cleveland Clinic Autism Center, and the Monarch School). Strong working relationships with area hospitals and schools provide large subject pools of typical and clinical populations of children. The University has recently developed an International Center for Autism Research and Education. This multi-center research program at CWRU, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth, and affiliated community resources will provide students with state of the art experiences in the field of autism. Additionally, the Schubert Center for Child Research and Policy provides students with first-rate opportunities to become engaged in the process of applying the knowledge gleaned from child development research to local policy agencies.

Cognitive Psychology Track

Cognition refers to a large number of psychological processes, including perception, memory, imagery, reading, language, reasoning, and intelligence. Our cognitive psychology faculty are Dr. Robert Greene and Dr. Brooke Macnamara. Memory is of particular interest and is extensively researched by Dr. Robert Greene. One line of research focuses on the structure of human episodic memory — people’s knowledge that events happen to them at a particular time and place. Recall, recognition, and frequency estimation tests are often used. The goal is to test and construct theories of general memory functioning in humans. Dr. Brooke Macnamara examines sub-processes of cognitive control as well as individual differences in cognitive abilities and skilled performance. One line of research focuses on predictors of expertise–this includes investigations of experiential factors, such as specific training regimens, and cognitive factors, such as differences in working memory capacity. More generally, she examines factors involved in predicting achievement. Students working with Dr. Macnamara have focused on visual working memory capacity and visual search as well as cognitive control. Students interested in any of the following areas may be a good fit for the Cognitive Psychology Track in the Developmental, Cognitive, and Affective Sciences PhD program: i) the mechanisms of cognitive control, the underpinnings of working memory, or the subprocesses of intelligence (for example); ii) cognitive abilities as predictors of learning, skill acquisition, achievement, or expertise; iii) experiential factors as predictors of learning, skill acquisition, achievement, or expertise; iv) individual differences in beliefs, goals, or personality factors as predictors of learning, skill acquisition, achievement, or expertise; v) communication (in healthy adults), especially complex communication, by studying failures (e.g., lapses in considering the other person’s perspective, language structural errors in bilingual communication); vi) the structure of human episodic memory. Students can carry out research relevant to formulating general principles of cognition and to determining the bases of individual differences in cognitive abilities.

Affective Neuroscience Track

Members of the Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, directed by Dr. Heath Demaree, conduct research that has both theoretical and clinical value. Specifically, the lab works to better understand how healthy individuals process emotional stimuli, as well as techniques that may be employed to effectively regulate or control emotions in both healthy and disordered populations. The primary measures we use are electrophysiological (e.g., measures of the autonomic nervous system, sympathetic and parasympathetic arousal), behavioral (e.g., facial expressions), and emotional (self-report). There are two aspects of the laboratory that make our research distinctive. First, whereas many researchers solely investigate “cold” cognitive process or “hot” emotional ones, our research often focuses on the intersection between both “hot” and “cold” processes. Interactions between cognitive and emotional processes are bidirectional and iterative in nature. For example, our lab has found that not only does working memory capacity (a “cold” process) robustly predict one’s ability to control emotional responses (a “hot” one), but attempts to regulate emotional responses leads to subsequent impairment of working memory capacity. Second, we also study the very difficult field of “automatic” (or “spontaneous”) emotion regulation. “Automatic” emotion regulation is naturally employed by the participant and is “non-directed,” in that participants do not simply following experimenters’ commands about how and when to control their emotions. Research on automatic emotion regulation is rare, but it is perhaps more generalizable and has greater ecological validity. We are also interested in extending our findings to populations who appear to have emotion processing and/or emotion regulation deficits. For example, we have a strong interest in using cutting-edge emotion-based research to help people who have problems controlling their food intake, gambling behavior, drinking behavior. All of the experimental programs attempt to address why people vary so much in their behavior and the factors that determine individual differences. Recent technological advances provide powerful tools to study potential biological and environmental contributions to these differences. Ongoing research projects in the department involve molecular genetic approaches for explaining individual differences in intelligence, cognitive processing, and temperament. Quantitative genetic studies using twins are being conducted on temperament, cognition, and speech disorders. Electroencephalogram (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) also are being used to study the brain at work in adults and children with typical development, as well as in special populations including patients with Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, Prader-Willi Syndrome, and autism.