Course Meeting Times

Lecture: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Lab: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


9.00 Introduction to Psychology or 24.900 Introduction to Linguistics; students will be expected to learn some R and Mechanical Turk.


In this class, students learn to design, conduct, analyze and present experiments on the structure and processing of human language, through hands-on experience. The main focus of the class is on constructing, conducting, analyzing, and presenting an original and independent experimental project of publishable quality. This will include developing skills in using’s Mechanical Turk and the statistical programming language R. We will also develop skills in reading and writing scientific research reports in human language research, including evaluating the methods section of a published paper, reading and understanding graphical displays and statistical claims about data, and evaluating theoretical claims based on experimental data.

The topics of research will all involve the structure and processing of human language. We will focus on issues regarding language as communication (including the field of pragmatics), the domain specificity / domain generality of language, and the relationship between language and thought.

Research Projects

Students choose a topic on human language research from a list provided by the instructors. Students design and conduct a replication of the published experiment. Then, with guidance from the instructor and the TA, students design, implement, and analyze results of an original experiment, which extends the first project in a novel direction. Students report their findings from the replication and extension experiments in papers and presentations. Students are encouraged to construct and conduct the experiments during lab time, when the TA or instructor will be available.

At the same time that students are choosing their topic for research, there are letures and discussion classes presenting background on experimental research in language. For most of these classes, students write a brief report about one of the papers to be discussed. The reports will then be used by the instructor in guiding the discussion in class. Writing these discussion notes will help students to read and evaluate current research in the cognitive psychology of language.

Mechanical Turk

Most students will run their experiments on Mechanical Turk, a crowd-sourcing website available through, where one can get experimental participants efficiently.


Most of the grade in this class comes from lab-based writeups or oral presentations of students' experiments. Details are provided below. Project topics will be handed out in the first three weeks of class.

Activity percentage
4 problem sets on R, statistics 15%
16 discussion notes 15%
Paper 1: Evaluation of a related experimental topic in the literature (40% for draft 1; 60% for draft 2) 10%
Paper 2: Project proposal, plus bibliography for the project 5%
Oral presentation of proposed project 5%
Paper 3: Replication writeup 10%
Oral presentation of final project 10%
Paper 4: Final paper 20%
Class and lab participation (including obligatory attendance) 10%


Late policy: 10% off each day late, down to 50% off. Then you can hand it in later for 50% credit.