Research Interests

I have a wide range of research interests, which are loosely rooted in human cognition, including expert-novice differences in Scrabble players, sex differences in cognitive abilities, critical thinking, using the principles of cognitive psychology to enhance teaching and learning, and work and family interactions.

Here are some projects that I am working on.

Operation ARIES: Acquiring Research Investigative and Evaluation Skills

This project is funded by a grant the Department of Education, Institute for Educational Sciences to Keith Millis, University of Northern Illinois, Art Graesser, University of Memphis, and Diane Halpern, Claremont McKenna College. It is currently being published by Pearson, Allyn, & Bacon and will be commercially available soon!

Operation ARIES is an intelligent tutoring system that using principles from the science of learning and serious learning games. Students participate in a game-like setting that begins when they sign up to be agents for the Federal Bureau of Science to save the earth from aliens from the ARIES constellation that are attempting to colonize the Earth. These aliens are taking over the Earth by turning humans into mindless consumers by using bad science. Students have to learn scientific principles to be able to identify the alien spies and prevent the earth from being colonized. The training proceeds in three stages: first they learn about science by reading the Fuath's Guide to the Bean's World of Science, which was written by aliens (Fuaths). They then identify potential aliens by evaluating realistic case studies, some of which are faulty, and finally by interrogating potential aliens. Students are tutored by fellow student and expert avatars using natural language. Although we are midway into this project, preliminary results on the effectiveness of automated tutoring are positive.

To watch our introductory video and learn more about the science behind Operation ARIES! please here.


Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment: Critical thinking is universally listed as a key area to be cultivated in higher education. The Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment (HCTA) is designed to measure critical thinking skills in adult populations. It has been used with many populations including high school seniors, community college students, students at state universities and elite colleges, and working adults. The HCTA consists of 25 everyday scenarios. No specialized knowledge is needed because the focus is on using critical thinking skills in common situations. Each scenario is presented twice, first requiring a constructed response and the second time requiring a force choice response. The purpose of two types of responding is to separate generation of a response from recognition processes. The assessment has two forms. It is available online and has been translated and used in Spanish, Chinese, and Turkish. The HCTA is available as part of the Vienna Testing System in multiple languages (Schuhfried publishers).

If you are interested in the HCTA, please CLICK HERE for more information.