A Message from the President

SARMAC XIII is fast approaching! The conference will take place in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA from 6-9 June, 2019. This conference will be highly student focused; we are planning a number of student social events and informative panels and the student research grant winners will share their findings in a symposium. We strongly encourage you to submit your abstracts now and join us in Cape Cod! For more information about the conference, check out the website

As a student from down-under (i.e., Australia), I am well aware of the costs associated with attending international conferences. Therefore, the student board has set up several initiatives to help you get there.

Student Travel Grants: We will be offering a number of student travel grants to help fund your trip to Cape Cod. The call for applications will go out on January 1 and the application deadline is February 28, 2019. Applications will be adjudicated on research quality, how the findings fit into the ‘big picture’, and funding need. In the spirit of ‘by the students, for the students’, applications will be adjudicated by a sub-committee comprising late-stage PhD students and recent PhD graduates. If you will not be applying for a grant, but are interested in adjudicating, please email us at student@sarmac.org.

Student room sharing: Interested in sharing a room with another student but don’t know anyone going to the conference? Never fear, we have setup a room sharing scheme to help reduce accommodation costs. All you have to do is submit your preferences here and once we find an appropriate person or group, we will send you an email with their contact details. The rest will be up to you.

Ella Moeck

SARMAC Student Caucus President

Cognitive Scientists and Industry:
Applications and potential career options

By David Hengerer
David is a PhD student in the Claremont Graduate University Applied Cognitive Psychology program. His research focuses on autobiographical memory, external memory, and the interaction between the two.

 What can I do with a post-graduate degree in cognitive science? For late-stage graduate students, this question may be timely, yet daunting. While securing a job in academia is becoming increasingly difficult, there are a number of new opportunities for cognitive scientists in industry-based careers; cognitive scientists are making their mark within the technology industry and in market research (Neilsen, 2017).

User Experience Research

Maybe you would like to work at Facebook, YouTube or another major tech company but are uncertain where you will fit. One career option you may not have considered is User Experience Research (UX Research). UX Research involves understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations via observation, analysis, and other research methodologies (usability.gov). Due to the recent and projected growth of the field (Nielson, 2017), UX Research positions are increasingly prevalent at major tech companies leading several US universities to offer UX specific graduate programs (e.g., Claremont Graduate University, University of California - San Diego). Human-computer interactions is one area in which there is a multitude of opportunities for cognitive scientists.  With the widespread increase of adaptive ads (advertisements that have content based on your browsing history) that we all experience seemingly daily, roles involving computerized modelling used to mimic the way the human brain works(cognitive computing) and artificial intelligence are becoming more popular. Additionally, consulting firm Accenture predicts that artificial intelligence will lead to major growth in a number of industries, including education, construction, and healthcare (Purdy & Daugherty, 2017).

What should you do if you are interested in UX Research? A great way to break in to the tech industry as a cognitive scientist is by seeking internships similar to the position you are interested in. Ariella Lehrer, President of HitPoint Studios, a video game company, suggests students should reach out to companies and inquire about potential internship opportunities (A. Lehrer, personal communication, September 3, 2018). SARMAC student member, Abigail Dean, recently interned at HitPoint Studios as a Design Researcher and shares her experience in the current issue (under Insight from a Student Member).

Danielle Green, a User Research Manager at Jane.com, recommends attending Professional Meetup groups (gatherings of people who work in UX Research, www.meetup.com), conducting informational interviews with industry professionals, and exploring LinkedIn for professional groups and job descriptions.

What skills should you cultivate to be more marketable for UX internships and eventually full-time positions? Quantitative and qualitative research skills, including research methodology, analysis, and the ability to accurately and effectively communicate findings are all valuable and desired skills. In particular, Green recommends interested students familiarize themselves with survey design, ethnography, statistics (e.g., R), A/B Testing (method for comparing website performances), eye-tracking, conducting and analyzing data from focus groups and live interviews, and designing and analyzing recall and recognition tests. It’s also helpful to develop some working knowledge of the SQL programming language and how data warehouses function (Green, 2018).

 Market Research

Another potential industry pathway for cognitive scientists is market research. Market research involves gathering information about target markets and customers for particular products. Both Market and UX Research require an understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods and data analysis, however the intent behind the two types of research are very different. The goal of market research is to gather information about what products people are most likely to buy and how to increase the likelihood of people buying those products (Marine, 2015; McCloskey, 2015). This differs slightly from UX Research, which is mostly concerned with how people use products and how to improve their experience with them. Another difference between Market and UX Research concerns the size and the type of data collected and analyzed: market research typically involves looking at very large quantitative datasets, whereas UX Research is more often concerned with smaller datasets that contain richer qualitative content (Kitching, 2018; Marine, 2015). Market Research may be a good choice for those of you who enjoy mathematical modeling. For example, choice modelling, risk analysis, and marketing mix modeling all play important roles in market research and are a great opportunity to practice your time series data analysis.

For those not interested in Market or UX Research, other options abound! Much of what cognitive science does is answer questions about how particular things work. Examples of using cognitive science to solve problems include improving visual search patterns by airport security (Biggs, Kramer, and Mitroff, 2018), improving study strategies to maximize learning and retention (Miyatsu, Ngyuen, and McDaniel, 2018), and even using recall practice to minimize the effects of misinformation on memory (Huff, Weinsheimer, and Bodner, 2016). Unsurprisingly, most everything involves perceptions, memory, or cognition, so there is plenty of opportunity to make use of what you know.

If you are certain you would like to pursue a career in academia but also want to reach non-academic audiences when designing, executing, and disseminating your research, make sure to keep an eye out for our next student newsletter. Hayley Cullen from the University of Sydney talks about her SARMAC Student Caucus Research Grant funded work examining potential remedies to problems caused by inattentional blindness for crimes, both with eyewitnesses and police officers.

Additional Resources

The Nielsen Norman Group website, offers a number of excellent articles detailing common User Experience research methods, human-computer interaction, the design process, and the role of psychology in User Experience Research.

For those seeking a more in-depth and structured guide to User Experience Research, we recommend the following helpful books:

  • “Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research” by Mike Kuniavsky

  • “UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products that People Want” by Jaime Levy

  • “Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research” by James R. Lewis and Jeff Sauro.


Accenture, Research. (2017). How AI boosts industry profits and innovation [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.accenture.com/t20170620T055506__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/Accenture/next-gen-5/insight-ai-industry-growth/pdf/Accenture-AI-Industry-Growth-Full-Report.pdf?la=en

Biggs, A. T., Kramer, M. R., & Mitroff, S. R. (2018). Using cognitive psychology research to inform professional visual search operations. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 7(2), 189-198. doi:10.1016/j.jarmac.2018.04.001.

Green, D. (2018, September 14). Personal interview.

Huff, M. J., Weinsheimer, C. C., & Bodner, G. E. (2015). Reducing the misinformation effect through initial testing: take two tests and recall me in the morning? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 30(1), 61-69. doi:10.1002/acp.3167

Kitching, J. (2018, April 09). User experience research vs. market research for product design and development – a blurring line? - Behavioural Research Consultancy. Retrieved from http://www.simpleusability.com/beinspired/2018/03/ux-research-vs-market-research/

Lehrer, A. (2018, September 3). Personal interview.

Marine, L. (2015, October 22). Market research is not user research. Retrieved from https://www.linkdex.com/en-us/inked/market-research-vs-user-research/

McCloskey, H. (2015, November 12). User research vs market research. Retrieved from http://community.uservoice.com/blog/user-research-vs-market-research/

Miyatsu, T., Nguyen, K., & Mcdaniel, M. A. (2018). Five popular study strategies: their pitfalls and optimal implementations. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(3), 390-407. doi:10.1177/1745691617710510

Nielsen, J. (2017). A 100-year view of user experience. Retrieved from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/100-years-ux/

Morey, R.D. [richarddmorey], (2018, September 06). Just bought a lightbulb and now Amazon is showing me many varieties of lightbulbs. Yes, Amazon, I’m a lightbulb collector [Tweet] Retrieved from https://twitter.com/richarddmorey/status/1037636744026509313

User research basics. (2013, October 08). Retrieved from https://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/user-research.html

Insight from a Student Member


Abigail M. Dean is a second year Ph.D. student in the Applied Cognitive Psychology program at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California.

You spent the summer doing an applied internship at a very successful video game development company. How did you go about applying to this internship? Could you shed some insight on the kinds of qualifications required?                                                

During my first year in the Ph.D. program in Applied Cognitive Psychology at Claremont Graduate University (CGU), I talked with my advisor, Kathy Pezdek about potential careers I would be interested in pursuing after graduation.  Kathy offered to put me in contact with an alumna of our program who is President of a video game development company, in hopes that I would be able to intern with them to learn about applying cognitive psychology to the tech & gaming industry.  My application and interview processes were a little unconventional because it was through a CGU alumna, however, to apply I first sent my resume to the President of the video game company. When I interviewed with her, we talked about my past research and work experience, what my role would be as a research intern and about my career aspirations.                  
What kind of work did you do at a video game company as an applied cognitive psychologist in training?

While interning, my role was a Design Research Intern.  My role consisted of researching and working with various staff members on product design and development and working directly with the President of the company on business strategy. Some tasks included researching business development opportunities, creating game content and curriculum, game bug testing, and creating competitive product matrices.  I also assisted the President with blog posts, providing summaries of psychological constructs and theories to support the content of the posts.                                          
What was your favorite part of this internship?

My favorite part of the internship was seeing how cognitive psychology theories and research impacted development and usage in gaming and technology.  A few of the areas I was able to research included Augmented Reality, Language Learning, and Voice Assistants.  For each of these areas I was able to learn about not only the technology, but also how understanding relevant cognitive psychological theories can produce better technologies.

I also really loved creating competitive product matrices--a tool used to critically compare one company against it's known competitors . This is a skill I learned in the internship. I liked this because initially, developing competitive product matrices was the most difficult part of my internship.  Often the topics I was creating matrices for were novel to me, but by the completion I was able to present and explain the common practices, what the market looks like for products within that topic, and where there are gaps in the market.   

Broadly speaking, what do you consider to be the benefits of doing an internship while in graduate school?

An internship in graduate school is critical. Internships allow graduate students to get work experience in a field they are interested in pursuing, to determine if they really are interested in this line of work.  Internships also expose graduate students to employment opportunities that they may not otherwise be aware of. This allows students to be more certain when entering the workforce that they want to pursue the careers to which they are applying because they’ve experienced it. An internship also increases a student’s confidence about his or her own abilities and gives them a “Vita item” that actually makes them a credible job applicant down the line.

Study Swap

Have you heard about StudySwap? It’s an online platform that can help you connect to researchers who want to share their resources all in the pursuit of facilitating collaborative research and improving science. 

For more information visit https://osf.io/view/StudySwap/

COS $1,000,000 (USD) Pre-Registration Challenge

Would you like to win $1000 for your next pet project? The Center for Open Science (COS) is challenging (and rewarding) 1,000 researchers $1,000 each to increase the quality and transparency of their research by pre-registering their research ideas and publishing their results. Pre-registering your work can be rewarding and help you down the road. It usually means outlining your data collection methods and analysis plan prior to viewing the data, thereby reducing concern over the influence of implicit biases affecting your results. But hurry! You have until the end of 2018 to complete the challenge.

We recommend visiting the Center for Open Science website (https://cos.io/prereg/) to learn more about the process and why this is just one more way we can all foster greater transparency and clarity in our scientific communities.

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions, contact us through Facebook (www.facebook.com/sarmacstudents), Twitter (@StudentSARMAC), or email (students@sarmac.org).