John Coley

John Coley

PhD in Psychology (Developmental), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1993
M.A. in Psychology (Developmental), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1990
A.B. in Psychology, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 1986, Magna Cum Laude

Areas of Expertise

Research Interests

In my lab, we study a host of interrelated questions about the structure of knowledge, reasoning, and conceptual development. How do we organize what we know? How do we use what we know to make guesses about what we don’t know? How do people decide what kind of knowledge is relevant in a particular situation? How does the acquisition of expertise influence how people organize and use knowledge? How do knowledge and reasoning change as children develop? How does growing up in different environments lead to different ways of thinking and reasoning about the world?

We take an experimental approach to answering these questions by systematically examining overt reasoning behavior in children and adults, as well as the processing that underlies such reasoning. By looking at how people think about rich real-world knowledge domains like plants and animals, food, and people, we strive to characterize the breadth, depth, and flexibility of human cognition.

Lab Website

Curriculum Vitae



Department of Psychology
125 Nightingale Hall

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Professor lives out rock star fantasy

John Coley, a psychology professor who moonlights as a bassist in a blues-rock band, reflects on the adrenaline rush of playing for a live audience. “After the show you feel so revved up,” he says. “You go home and you can’t fall asleep for hours.”

Psychology professor discusses memory of new administration with Wired

Psychology professor John Coley discusses memory and cognition in relation to President Donald Trump and Secretary Ben Carson.

Why biology students have misconceptions about science

Cognitive scientist John Coley has helped unlock why misconceptions persist in science education—research that could change the way instructors teach and improve how students learn science.

Psychology professor helps frame memory discussion

John Coley, associate professor of psychology, weighs in after Charlie Baker’s memory fails.