The Cognition In Action lab recruits students for Independent Study during most semesters. Below, you can find a broad description of what we work on in the lab. If you are interested, feel free to reach out to Dr. van der Wel ( There are limited spots available each semester and students are vetted to ensure that working in the lab aligns with interests of both the student and Dr. van der Wel.

What we research:
Much of what we do concerns the use of our action systems to interact with the world, including interactions with others around us. Without the ability to act, our psychological processes would merely be spectators. What is the use of having thoughts and emotions if not for our ability to translate them into adaptive changes to our environment? While a common definition for the field of psychology as “the study of mental life and behavior” may falsely suggest that mental life and behavior are somewhat separate entities, my research aims to elucidate how we use our action systems in support of psychological processes. These processes include cognitions underlying action planning and coordination in individual contexts, as well as social cognitive processes that come into play when we perceive, plan, and coordinate with others around us.

A better understanding of action cognition in general is useful for fields as wide-ranging as psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, robotics, physical rehabilitation, and engineering. When people have suffered from a stroke, they have trouble with the planning of actions. A better understanding could inform rehabilitation. In robotics, building socially cognizant robots has proven difficult due in part to the limited knowledge we have on action planning. In philosophy, a great deal of theorizing concerns how our physical actions relate to our mental experiences. My research projects touch on these issues through carefully controlled experiments.

You can find more on the faculty site:

Keywords/Areas of Study: Action Cognition, Cognitive Science, Social Cognition

Hourly Time Commitment (per week): Between 5 to 10 hours per week

Length of Commitment: No fewer than one semester, but preferably multiple semesters.

Modality: Face-to-face (specify days or times per week)

Type of Opportunity: 

  • Credit- or course-based (e.g., independent study, capstone project)
  • Volunteer (e.g., research assistant)

Contact Faculty Lead:
Robrecht van der Wel
Department of Psychology
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