Cognitive Psychology: How the Brain Works

Think of the brain as your mental hardware. It processes daily inputs such as language, behavior, memory, problem solving and decision making. In this course, you will learn about cognitive psychology, from its origins in philosophy to its current role in robotics. You’ll study the various regions of the brain and how each affects different functions, such as speech, perception, attention, facial recognition and more. Delve into research that shows the influence of positive thinking on how tasks are performed. Draw a brain diagram showing which areas are most important for memory and decision making. Today, a background in cognitive psychology is in high demand in fields such as health care, law and education. If you seek a future in any of these areas, this course is for you.

Program Dates

Multi-length courses available throughout the year


For students ages 13 and up



Understanding the Workings of the Brain

Explore the Foundations of Cognitive Psychology

Learn to identify the origins of cognitive psychology and gain insight into the current state of the science — what we know now — and some mysteries that remain.

Recognize the Differences Between Perception, Recognition and Attention

Study the visual system and how the brain translates information through perception, recognition and attention. Discover how our focus of attention impacts emotions and behavior.

Understand the Systems that Process Memory

Review traditional constructs of memory, including short-term and long-term. Study how memory loss evolves and how inaccuracies are produced, even of our own experiences.

How Information is Turned into Knowledge

Consider how the brain organizes information and converts it to knowledge, language and visual imagery.

Explore the Frontal Lobe and its Role in Thinking

You will look at the functions of decision making, problem solving, empathy and reasoning as key actions that stem from the frontal lobe.

Complete a Final Project: Map the Human Brain

Create a brain map that reflects a relevant decision-making circumstance, such as the process around which sport to play, summer job to take or school to attend.

How You Will Benefit

  • Understand human cognition and the relationship between mind and brain.
  • Know the history of cognitive psychology.
  • Define distinct systems of the brain and the processes of human cognition.
  • Know how the brain uses memory and its connection to attention.
  • Identify the functions of the frontal lobe, like emotions and reasoning.
  • Complete a Final Project to demonstrate what you’ve learned.
  • Earn a Certificate of Completion from William & Mary.

Three Learning Advantages Designed for You

Final Project

Create a human brain map; a pictorial presentation that demonstrates how the brain processes decision making. Use a personal experience such as how you chose which sport to play, which summer job to take or school to attend.


You’ll receive guidance from a mentor who can support you and deepen your learning experience. You can expect:

  • Encouragement and direction on all assignments. 
  • Inspiration, motivation and confidence to help you excel in your studies. 
  • Brainstorming and ideation to help you prepare for your Final Project.

Flexible Learning

  • 100% online learning that works with your schedule.
  • Flexible format: you’ll learn through video lectures. Tune in anytime that works for you.
  • 20-30 hours of total instruction and course work, including engaging multimedia, simulations and curated assignments for which you will receive guidance and support from mentors.

Apply Now for the Next Available Course

July 21 - August 4

Length: 2 weeks

Cost: $1,295.00

Application Deadline: Sunday, July 14, 2024

August 4 - August 18

Length: 2 weeks

Cost: $1,295.00

Application Deadline: Sunday, July 28, 2024

All course options have the same educational content, learning materials and number of assignments. We are offering a condensed version of the course in order to accommodate students’ individual schedules.

Course Designed by William & Mary Faculty

Jennifer A. Stevens, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Dr. Stevens is an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences and the Neuroscience Program at William & Mary. She is the director of the W&M Cognitive Neuroscience Lab and has primary research interests in visual and motor representation and the use of imagery to improve behavior, the relationship between space and thought, and perception of visual art and the aesthetic experience.

How to Apply

It’s easy. No transcripts or letters of recommendation are needed. Our application requires basic contact information for you and your parent or guardian. Then, tell us why you wish to take this course. Include your personal story through writing, video, photos — or any medium you prefer.

Note: Please submit all application materials in English.

Begin the guided process. It should take only a few minutes of your time to answer the questions.

Want to Know More?

Sign up for more information and we’ll be in touch.


Our application process is easy. You can expect a prompt decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will you be graded? What are assignments like? How much time do you have to turn around a project? When do you find out if you’re admitted? Find answers to your questions here.


We offer need-based scholarships in each cohort to students exhibiting high potential and an inability to pay full tuition. If you would like to be considered for a scholarship but you:

  • Haven’t applied to the program, complete your application now. The scholarship application is included.
  • Applied to the program and didn’t fill out a scholarship request, resume your application and click “Apply for Scholarship”.
  • Are unsure about whether or not you applied for a scholarship, reach out to us at for assistance.