Joshua Ortiz ’17
There are various reasons why I chose to major in cognitive science. For one thing, I was originally a PPE major (politics, philosophy, economics); I got frustrated with what I was learning, especially in politics and economics, with why people were making the decisions they made and acted the way they to acted. I wanted to understand the basis of this behavior, particularly the cognitive biases that govern them. Furthermore, I wanted something interdisciplinary— I love the brain and I love psychology; I wanted something that merged the two under one science and cognitive science was perfect for that. The beauty of being able to take a theory from psychology, apply it in an experimental setting, and get results that either support or disprove said theory is incredible. In a way, I think of cognitive science as a crossroad of many disciplines, from linguistics, to philosophy, to computer science and more… the breadth and scope of this major is all-encompassing and so critical for understanding where we are in the world and our future place that I simply could not pass it up.
For prospective students, I would say: prepare to be challenged creatively. Cognitive science requires a quick and agile mind, one that can juggle many questions and sort through appropriate responses. You are learning from many disciplines and integrating the information can be challenging, but rewarding: you’ll soon find that these disciplines complement each other in ways that you never thought possible. My biggest advice is to keep an open mind and be keen on questions; the more questions you ask, the better. Cognitive science is a relatively new field and there is room for advancement in many areas; it is up to the student to figure out what inspires them the most and to take that all the way to something original and evolutionary.
At the end of the day, cognitive science offers students of the discipline a robust and integrated way of studying human behavior. If you are interested in language, philosophy, computation, neuroscience, and much more, you will find a home in cognitive science. Perhaps more than anything, if you are a student of life, one that learns by doing and experiencing, then cognitive science is for you.
Kailey Lawson ’17
I am interested in the cognitive mechanisms that underlie people’s decision-making and how social and ethical concerns affect how people interact with each other. Drawing from themes in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, cognitive science has allowed me to pursue questions about interpersonal interactions from a variety of different frameworks.
Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field where students can explore any number of research questions, which makes it a very flexible major to pursue. I have been able to take classes that help me delve deeper into my specific topics of interest, like moral and legal decision-making. Additionally, the breadth of the major has provided me with the opportunity to take a wide variety of courses, including linguistics and computer science classes that significantly inform my thinking but I might not have otherwise taken.
The cognitive science department has provided great resources for students looking for research opportunities and the funding to be able to carry these research projects out. Last summer, the department funded my work at a forensic psychiatric hospital in San Bernardino, where I was able to conduct research on cognitive functioning in individuals involved in the criminal justice system. This opportunity has informed my post-college plans and I am thankful that the department was able to support me throughout my experience.
David Cremins ’18
I first noticed Pomona because it had a cognitive science major when I visited in April of my senior year [of high school] after being accepted. I met Professor Burke and a 10-minute conversation with her was enough not only to convince me to come to Pomona but that this would be my major - I haven't looked back since. I think the breadth of the major both invites in people interested in a wide variety of topics - philosophy of mind, artificial intelligence, psychology - in the first year or two of the major and then allows us to find something unexpectedly fascinating that we may dive deeper into junior and senior year. It really is impressive what Debby [Burke] has built here, and while I'm sure whoever comes to replace her will be eminently qualified, they will have their work cut out for them.
Carly Grimes '18
The cognitive science major sparked my interest with its interdisciplinary requirements and the flexibility its structure provided in focusing on specific interests within the field. With the option to count courses towards the major from departments like psychology, cognitive science, philosophy, computer science, romance languages and literatures, music, and linguistics, there is never a shortage of interesting material!
Prospective students should know that the skills gained from this major are not limited to conducting cognitive science research. My major has empowered me to feel confident in reading research papers from a variety of fields and understanding their implications. I hope to employ the science communication skills I have gained in politics and have found my deep understanding of social science research methods to be applicable to nearly every course I have taken at Pomona.
Students interested in cognitive science should be sure to take advantage of the many research opportunities that Pomona and the 5Cs provide. Professors throughout the colleges' psychology departments have many research assistant spots open to you in their labs and faculty are also always open to hearing individual project proposals.