Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology PhD

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College : Sciences Degree :PHD
Department : Psychology Option : Dissertation
Program Websites :


A PhD degree track in Human Factors and Cognitive (HFC) Psychology, accredited by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, is offered to those with a baccalaureate or master’s degree in psychology or an allied area. The track seeks to develop the capacity to design, conduct, and apply human factors and cognitive psychology research in a variety of professional and academic settings. It is patterned on the scientist-practitioner model of the American Psychological Association (APA) and adheres to guidelines established by the committee for Education and Training of APA’s Division 21 (Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology). A variety of research, consulting, and internship arrangements are included in the track. Students receive training in the content and techniques of human factors and cognitive  psychology–including statistical and quantitative procedures, experimental design, survey methods, computer techniques, and other research methodologies. Students must also select a concentration area, which may be in human-computer interaction, human-machine-environment interface, human performance, human factors in simulation and training, cognitive neuroscience, or other areas of interest with the adviser’s authorization. A dissertation representing a significant research contribution to the field is required.


For students who enter with a baccalaureate degree, the Human Factors and Cognitive track in the Psychology PhD program requires a minimum of 75 credit hours, and students may earn the MA degree in route to the PhD by completing all of the requirements of the PhD except for dissertation. For students who already have a master’s degree in Psychology, the MA is not available. Students who enter with a master’s degree in psychology will be allowed to waive up to 30 hours of graduate course work to the doctoral program with approval of the program faculty, and will also be required to complete a minimum of 60 semester hours at UCF.

Total Credit Hours Required:
75 Credit Hours Minimum beyond the Bachelor's Degree

For students who already have a master's degree in psychology, the number of credit hours will depend on the number of credit hours transferred or waived. However, all students in the program must complete 15 credit hours of dissertation.

Required Courses—42 Credit Hours

  • EXP 5256 Human Factors I (3 credit hours)
  • EXP 6257 Human Factors II (3 credit hours)
  • EXP 6258 Human Factors III (3 credit hours)
  • EXP 5208 Sensation and Perception (3 credit hours)
  • EXP 6116 Visual Performance (3 credit hours)
  • EXP 6255 Human Performance (3 credit hours)
  • EXP 6506 Human Cognition and Learning (3 credit hours)
  • EXP 6541 Advanced Human-Computer Interaction (3 credit hours)
  • INP 7089 Human Factors Professional Issues (3 credit hours)
  • PSB 5005 Physiological Psychology (3 credit hours)
  • PSY 7217C Advanced Research Methodology I (4 credit hours)
  • PSY 7218C Advanced Research Methodology II (4 credit hours)
  • PSY 7219C Advanced Research Methodology III (4 credit hours) 

Students are required to achieve a minimum grade of B- in each core curriculum course.  Students who take PSB 6328 and PSB 6348 must achieve a B- in both courses. If students earn a C+ or lower in any core curriculum course, they will be placed on academic probation and they may be required to retake the course or to complete remedial work required by the HFC committee in consultation with the student’s adviser.

Elective Courses—18 Credit Hours

Students should choose electives in concentrated course groupings: for example, human-machine systems, performance measurement and evaluation, simulation and training, or quantitative methods. Other elective course groupings may be developed for the student’s specific interests. Students may choose to satisfy these elective requirements by taking courses outside the Psychology Department that can serve their multidisciplinary needs. Courses outside of the Department that have already been approved as electives are contained in the list below. A student who wishes to use courses that are not included on this list may seek approval by petitioning the HFC Faculty Committee through their academic adviser. Students may take up to 12 credit hours of Directed Research, however, it is highly recommended that they take elective courses that are related to their discipline from other graduate programs or departments at UCF. Electives may include but are not limited to the following courses:

  • DEP 5057 Developmental Psychology (3 credit hours) (Spring Only)
  • DIG 5876 Quantitative Aspects of Modeling and Simulation (3 credit hours)
  • DIG 6432 Transmedia Story Creation (3 credit hours) (Fall, Summer)
  • EIN 5248C Ergonomics (3 credit hours)
  • EIN 5251 Usability Engineering (3 credit hours)
  • EIN 5255C Interactive Simulation (3 credit hours) (Spring only)
  • EIN 6258 Human Computer Interaction (3 credit hours)
  • EME 6613 Instructional System Design (3 credit hours) (Occasional)
  • EME 6614 Instructional Game Design for Training and Education (3 credit hours)
  • EXP 5254 Human Factors and Aging (3 credit hours) (Fall Only)
  • EXP 6939 Teaching Seminar (3 credit hours)
  • IDS 6916 Simulation Research Methods and Practicum (3 credit hours)
  • IDS 6146 Modeling and Simulation Systems (3 credit hours)
  • IDS 6147 Perspectives on Modeling and Simulation (3 credit hours) (Fall only). May be substituted by: DIG 5875C Introduction to Modeling and Simulation (3 credit hours) (Summer only)
  • IDS 6148 Human Systems Integration for Modeling and Simulation (3 credit hours)
  • IDS 6149 Modeling and Simulation for Test and Evaluation (3 credit hours)
  • INP 5825 Human-Computer Interface (HCI) Design: A Team Approach (3 credit hours)
  • INP 7310 Organizational Psychology I (3 credit hours)
  • PPE 5055 Personality Theories (3 credit hours)
  • PSB 6328 Psychophysiology (3 credit hours)
  • PSB 6348 The Neuroanatomical Basis of Psychological Function (3 credit hours)
  • PSB 6352 Neuroimaging Design and Analysis Methods (3 credit hours)
  • PSB 7349 Advanced Topics in Cognitive Neuroscience (3 credit hours)
  • PSY 5605 History and Systems of Psychology (3 credit hours)
  • SOP 5059 Advanced Social Psychology (3 credit hours)

Concentration in Cognitive Neuroscience

The Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology PhD Program offers students opportunities for both lab and course-based training in Cognitive Neuroscience. To support cognitive neuroscience research training, the Department of Psychology maintains state-of-the-art research facilities, including space and equipment for electroencephalography/event-related potentials (EEG/ERP), functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), eye tracking, pupillometry, heart-rate variability, respiration, and electrodermal activity, as well as external collaborations to support functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In addition, the HFC Program also offers a course-based concentration in Cognitive Neuroscience with the following curriculum:

  • PSB 6328 Psychophysiology (3 credit hours)
  • PSB 6348 The Neuroanatomical Basis of Psychological Function (3 credit hours)
  • PSB 6352 Neuroimaging Design and Analysis Methods (3 credit hours)
  • PSB 7349 Advanced Topics in Cognitive Neuroscience (3 credit hours)
  • Select 6 credit hours of elective courses from the list above.

A student who elects to complete the concentration must achieve a minimum grade of B- in each course.  

Note: Admission to these courses is not guaranteed, but is contingent on the decision of the department, college, and instructor of record for the course. 

Dissertation—15 Credit Hours

  • PSY 7980 Doctoral Dissertation (15 credit hours) 

First Year Research Project

In the first year, all students must do a laboratory research project (the First Year Project) that includes at least one empirical study. The project must be approved and will be supervised by the student’s adviser. Two weeks after the start date of the first semester of the second year (if this date falls on a weekend or academic holiday, the due date will be the first day following on which University classes are in session), the student must provide a written paper describing their work structured in accordance with APA guidelines and including all sections necessary for a typical journal submission in their field. It should not exceed 20 pages of text (exclusive of References, Tables, and Figures). Approval of the paper is required by two members of the Human Factors and Cognitive Area faculty (one of whom will be the student’s adviser). Additionally, the student must undergo a 20 minute oral examination based on the written report. This examination will be in the format of an academic talk delivered to area faculty and students that will occur approximately 2 weeks following submission of the First Year Paper. Satisfactory performance on both the paper and oral examination is required to maintain good standing in the program. Cases in which performance is deemed unsatisfactory will result in academic probation with a retention plan for the student, who must successfully complete this plan to maintain status in the program. However, if a student already on academic probation delivers a first year project (either paper or talk) that is deemed unsatisfactory then they may be removed from the program at the discretion of the program director.

Admission to Candidacy

The following are required to be admitted to candidacy and enroll in dissertation hours: 

  • Completion of all course work, except for dissertation hours.  
  • Successful completion of the candidacy examination.  
  • Successful defense of the written dissertation proposal.  
  • The dissertation advisory committee is formed, consisting of approved graduate faculty and graduate faculty scholars.  
  • Submittal of an approved program of study. 

Comprehensive Examinations are detailed below and involve the completion of five professional activity/competency domains.

Professional Activity/Competency Domains
Domain 1: Research
  • Published/Publishable Article (first author)

Deadline: End of sixth semester in Program (excluding summers)

Domain 2: Teaching/Professional Presentations
  • Undergraduate Instructor Experience, or
  • Professional Presentations

Deadline: End of sixth semester in Program (excluding summers)

Domain 3: Grant Proposals
  • Grant Proposal

Deadline: End of fourth semester in Program (excluding summers)

Domain 4: Research Methods
  • In class test administration will be offered in fall semester

Deadline: End of fourth semester in Program (excluding summers)


The purpose of the qualifying and comprehensive examination is to develop and assess competency of professional behaviors in doctoral-level graduate students in the Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology program that are consistent with the program’s professional training goals. These goals include but are not limited to the development and demonstration of skills and abilities that enable graduating students in (1) research; (2) competently serve as innovative teachers/instructors in colleges and universities, and as presenters at local, regional, national, and international professional conferences; (3) prepare/review grants; (4) research methods/critique.

Requirements, Rationale and Objectives 

Successful completion of comprehensive examination requirements reflect the Program’s desire to insure overall breadth of training in the field of human factors and cognitive psychology that are complemented by individually tailored professional training experiences and competencies consistent with a student’s professional career goals. The four professional domains outlined above (and detailed in the subsequent sections) are consistent with this intent. Students are required to complete all domains as well as required coursework (including electives) to be eligible for doctoral candidacy. The student must meet all domain requirements during his or her enrollment in the UCF HFC PhD program.  Work completed outside the program will not be considered for domain completion.  Some competency domains contain options, and students are free to select any option (see options under each domain in Table 1) in consultation with their faculty advisers.

1.  Students fulfill the Research domain by submitting an article to a refereed journal. Students must be first or solo author on empirical research that is either published or publishable in a peer- reviewed journal. If the student does not receive word on journal submission by 6 months or if article is rejected, the faculty committee will review the student’s work and determine if it fulfills the requirement.

Fulfillment of this component is intended to (a) complement the student’s graduate level course work in research methods, design, statistics, and on-going research practica, (b) hone conceptual and professional writing skills related to publishing findings in scholarly journals, (c) encourage students to submit completed scholarly works to journals for peer review, and (d) provide students with the opportunity to receive and react to comments offered by professional journal reviewers. Student must complete research and article while enrolled in the HFC Program.  The student must report receipt of the peer review and complete and submit all forms for inclusion in their portfolio within thirty (30) days of receiving feedback from the journal.  The student must also inform his/her adviser, the Program Assistant, and the Program Director each time an activity is added to his/her Competency portfolio. Failure to meet the thirty day deadline will result in disqualification of the manuscript for satisfying this competency. The manuscript and editorial response may be reviewed by the HFC committee to determine whether the student has satisfied this requirement.

2.  Fulfillment of the Teaching/ Professional Presentations domain requires first that all students complete the UCF Graduate Studies 2-day GTA Training session.  In addition, students must either serve as instructor of record for an undergraduate course at UCF or complete 5 formal presentations.  If the student opts for instructor of record of an undergraduate course, the student must do the following: Submit a syllabus, lecture notes, examinations, two course evaluations (mid and end-of-semester administered online by UCF, distributed by Psychology), as well as written feedback from the student’s faculty adviser or members of the student’s competency committee who directly observed or viewed videotapes of at least three lectures. If the student opts to conduct professional presentations, that student must complete 5 presentations in which he or she is an author and is also the primary presenter. Written feedback from the student’s faculty adviser or members of the student’s competency committee who directly observed or viewed videotapes of the five lectures must be available for review.  Professional presentations do not include poster presentations or classroom presentations (e.g., guest lecturer).

Fulfillment of the traditional Teaching domain is intended to provide students with (a) additional training and opportunities to develop instructional skills consistent with university level instruction, (b) the opportunity to receive and react to constructive comments concerning their developing instructional skills, (c) additional opportunities to learn and develop expertise in using newly developed technology and methods relevant to university level instruction (e.g., active learning groups, computer assisted technology, software programs that facilitate and complement traditional instructional activities), and (d) additional expertise in select areas of psychology to prepare them for future professional instructional opportunities following graduation from the University. The alternative option under this domain is intended to encourage students to engage in research studies beyond those required by the program and to present their findings at professional meetings. Fulfillment of this requirement is expected to promote research involvement throughout graduate training and promote student competency in (a) developing written submissions of completed empirical works, (b) oral presentations skills with professional audiences, (c) learning and using innovative technology relevant to paper/poster presentations, and (d) receiving and reacting to constructive comments offered by professionals.

Students satisfy this domain by accumulating points for teaching and/or professional presentation.  For presentations, the student must be the presenter. Points are assigned as follows:

  • One paper presentation (lecture) at National/International Conference (2 points)
  • One poster presentation at National/International Conference (1 point)
  • One paper presentation at Regional Conference (1 point)
  • One poster presentation at Regional Conference (1/2 point)
  • Teaching Assistant for a laboratory section (limit of one section per semester) (1 point)
  • HFC Program Colloquium/Brown-bag presentation (1 point) 
  • Teaching a course as instructor of record (6 points)

The student must report each activity and complete and submit all forms for inclusion in their portfolio within thirty (30) days of the presentation or of the end of the semester in which the teaching activity occurred.  The student must also inform his/her adviser, the Program Assistant, and the Program Director each time an activity is added to his/her Competency portfolio. Failure to meet the thirty day deadline will result in disqualification of the activity for satisfying this competency. The activity may be reviewed by the HFC committee to determine whether the student has satisfied this requirement.

3. Fulfillment of the Grant/Proposals domain is intended to (a) provide students with additional training and opportunities to critically review a specific area of empirical research related to human factors and cognitive psychology, (b) hone conceptual and professional writing skills related to submitting grant applications to private and/or public granting agencies, (c) provide students with an opportunity to interact with department and university grant support facilities, (d) encourage extra-department financial support for conducting empirical studies (e.g., federal and private awards for dissertation research), and (e) provide students with an opportunity to receive and react to grant reviewer comments.  Fulfillment of this domain requires each student to submit an independent grant application that he or she has initiated.  The grant application must be submitted to a funding agency. If the grant is not awarded, its acceptability to fulfill the domain’s requirement will be reviewed by the HFC  faculty committee. 

The student must report submission of the grant proposal and complete and submit all forms for inclusion in their portfolio within thirty (30) days of submission.  The student must also inform his/her adviser, the Program Assistant, and the Program Director each time an activity is added to his/her Competency portfolio. Failure to meet the thirty day deadline will result in disqualification of the grant proposal for satisfying this competency. The proposal may be reviewed by the HFC committee to determine whether the student has satisfied this requirement.

4. Fulfillment of the Research Methods domain requires all students to take an in-class exam. This exam will be administered only in the Summer semester of each year. Students may petition the HFC committee for exemption from this exam.  The minimum requirement is a GPA=3.75 across the three required research methods courses (i.e., PSY 7217C Advanced Research Methodology I; PSY 7218C Advanced Research Methodology II; PSY 7219C Advanced Research Methods III). Note that if a student enrolls in any of these courses a second time, they may not be exempted from the exam.

Procedures and Time Guidelines for Completing the Comprehensive Examination

Students admitted to the PhD Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology Program will complete all of the four professional activity domain options (Research, Teaching/Professional Presentations, Grant Proposals, and Research Methods/Critique) to fulfill the professional competency requirements. Students are strongly encouraged to discuss their preferences and planned course for fulfilling these requirements with their academic advisers. Students admitted to the PhD Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology Program will not be able to fulfill the requirements with previous work completed at any institution previous to their enrollment in the HFC PhD program at the University of Central Florida.

Successful completion of the comprehensive examination criteria must be completed before proposing the dissertation. The deadlines for completion of each competency are indicated in the Table 1. Each student’s comprehensive examination committee (which may be different from or identical to the dissertation committee) will determine whether the student has successfully fulfilled the requirements of the comprehensive examination based on written grading procedures to be outlined by the HFC faculty.  Students are strongly encouraged to consult with their adviser in selecting a comprehensive examination committee.  One consideration in identifying potential committee members is the research topic you select to meet domains 1 and 3. Students are responsible for submission of paperwork required to establish their committee, and they should consult with the Program Assistant to coordinate this process.

A written summary of the results and the student’s Professional Activity Domain dossier will be forwarded to the Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology Program faculty for review and final approval. Students must submit their candidacy dossiers to the HFC Program faculty thirty (30) days prior to the beginning of the semester they anticipate becoming ABD.  Failure to do so may result in delaying their advancement to candidacy. The Program faculty will then review each submitted dossier and the Director of the HFC Program will notify students in writing following the successful completion of comprehensive examination requirements. Students may formally propose their dissertation following written notification that they have completed the comprehensive examination requirements.

Graduate Research: Doctoral Dissertation

Prior to enrollment into PSY 7980 Doctoral Dissertation, you must have passed candidacy and your dissertation committee must be reviewed and approved by the College of Sciences Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. This form can be found online at:

Doctoral students engaging in dissertation research must be continuously enrolled in at least three hours of PSY 7980 every semester, including summers, until they successfully defend and submit their dissertation to the University Thesis Editor.

Students will complete a minimum of 15 dissertation credit hours to meet the requirements for graduation. 

Program Guidelines

All dissertations must involve the collection and analysis of original data. In exceptional circumstances, the use of an archival data set may be accepted through petition to the Graduate Committee. Oral presentation of the dissertation/dissertation prospectus must be made to the Dissertation/ Dissertation Committee for approval prior to initiating the research. The proposal generally includes the following: (a) title, (b) introduction to the problem, (c) comprehensive review of relevant literature, (d) establishing the uniqueness of the study, (e) theoretical background and hypotheses, (f) planned methodology, and (g) planned data analytic approach. Students are encouraged to write their dissertation proposal and dissertation using APA publication style(see APA Publication Manual, 6th edition) and to submit their completed research to relevant professional journals in their field of research. An appendix to the dissertation and/or dissertation may be used to include a more comprehensive literature review as determined by the student's committee members. After submitting a written proposal to the Dissertation/Dissertation Committee, the committee will meet with the student to discuss and evaluate the proposal. The approval of the proposal by a majority of committee members indicates that the committee members find the research to be original and appropriate, the literature review to be accurate and appropriately comprehensive, and the research design/planned data analytic strategy to be appropriate for the study.

After receiving committee approval for the thesis/dissertation, all students must receive approval from the University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) before data can be collected from human participants. Information about this process can be obtained from the Office of Research ( Failure to obtain this prior approval could jeopardize receipt of the student's degree. 

Students should refer to the Graduate Studies Thesis and Dissertation Webcourse, which describes UCF’s formatting requirements for dissertations and outlines the steps graduate students must follow to submit their dissertations to Graduate Studies for archiving

Dissertation Committee Composition

Doctoral students must establish a Dissertation Committee prior to the Candidacy Examination. The Committee will consist of a minimum of four members. At least three members must be qualified regular faculty members from the student's department at UCF, one of whom must serve as the chair of the committee. One member must be from either outside the student's department at UCF or outside the university.  It is likely that the student’s adviser will serve as the chair of the committee.  Students are therefore strongly encouraged to consult with their adviser in identifying potential committee members.

All members vote on acceptance or rejection of the dissertation proposal and the final dissertation. The dissertation proposal and final dissertation must be approved by a majority of the committee.

Dissertation Committee/Candidacy Status Form:

These approval forms should be completed and submitted to the HFC program assistant.  Refer to the above website for detailed information.

Time Limitation and Deadlines for Dissertation Completion

A student has seven years from the date of admission to the doctoral program to complete the Ph.D. requirements. If the seven-year limit is exceeded, the candidacy examinations as well as course work may need to be repeated.

Deadline, Dissertation Proposal Defense: End of eighth semester in Program (excluding summers)

Deadline, Dissertation Defense: End of eleventh semester in Program (excluding summers)

    Master of Arts in Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology

    Students enrolled in the Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology (HFC) PhD track may elect to earn a Master of Arts in HFC Psychology in route to their doctorate. This is a nonterminal master's degree available only to students in the HFC Psychology PhD track.

    Additional Program Requirements

    The MA in HFC Psychology requires a total of 60 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree, as well as successful completion of the candidacy examination that qualifies the student for candidacy status within the HFC Psychology PhD. All HFC MA students take the same credit hours of core courses (less the 15 hour dissertation requirement) as well as and 18 credit hours of electives. All required courses and selected electives are described in the PhD program of study above.

    Note: The MA in HFC cannot be pursued if a master’s in psychology or master’s in modeling and simulation has already been awarded.

    Independent Learning

    Given the nature of graduate training and the pursuit of a doctoral degree, graduate students in Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology are required to become involved in independent learning throughout their graduate careers. The obtaining of the master's degree on route to the doctoral degree and the doctoral dissertation are examples of independent learning in which all graduate students participate.  In addition, the comprehensive evaluation activities which include passing a research methods examination, teaching, research with publishing, and applied experience are required of all graduate students. Depending upon their career goals, other experiences such as directed readings or additional research projects may be undertaken by the students.

    Application Requirements

    For information on general UCF graduate admissions requirements that apply to all prospective students, please visit the Admissions section of the Graduate Catalog. Applicants must apply online. All requested materials must be submitted by the established deadline.

    In addition to the general UCF graduate application requirements, applicants to this program must provide:

    • One official transcript (in a sealed envelope) from each college/university attended.
    • Official, competitive GRE score taken within the last five years.
    • Degree(s) should be in psychology or an allied area.
    • Evidence of successful completion of undergraduate courses in statistics and general areas of experimental psychology.
    • Résumé or Curriculum Vitae.
    • A clear statement concerning the professional background, the type of research you wish to pursue as a graduate student, and the faculty member you believe would be best suited to serve as your major professor and mentor.
    • Three letters of recommendation, with at least two furnished by college or university professors who are acquainted with the applicant.

    Students are not normally admitted to the program without having completed a minimum amount of basic preparation in content related to experimental psychology. This preparation is judged on an individual basis but typically consists of at least 18 semester hours in the following:

    • Courses in research methods, computer applications, and statistical methods.
    • General experimental psychology courses, e.g., learning, physiological, perception, human learning, cognition, motivation, and measurement.

    Applicants are evaluated for program prerequisites and advised of any need for additional preparation. Previous graduate work is evaluated for credit on a case-by-case basis.

    Meeting minimum UCF admission criteria does not guarantee program admission. Final admission is based on evaluation of the applicant's abilities, past performance, recommendations, match of this program and faculty expertise to the applicant's career/academic goals, and the applicant's potential for completing the degree. Admission criteria are more stringent because of the competitiveness of the application process.

    Application Deadlines

    Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology PhD *Fall Priority Fall Spring Summer
    Domestic Applicants Jan 1Jan 1



    International Applicants Jan 1Jan 1



    International Transfer Applicants Jan 1Jan 1



    *Applicants who plan to enroll full time in a degree program and who wish to be considered for university fellowships or assistantships should apply by the Fall Priority date.


    Graduate students may receive financial assistance through fellowships, assistantships, tuition support, or loans. For more information, see the College of Graduate Studies Funding website, which describes the types of financial assistance available at UCF and provides general guidance in planning your graduate finances. The Financial Information section of the Graduate Catalog is another key resource.


    Fellowships are awarded based on academic merit to highly qualified students. They are paid to students through the Office of Student Financial Assistance, based on instructions provided by the College of Graduate Studies. Fellowships are given to support a student’s graduate study and do not have a work obligation. For more information, see UCF Graduate Fellowships, which includes descriptions of university fellowships and what you should do to be considered for a fellowship.