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Cognitive Science Major

Examine how the mind works using an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on the core disciplines of psychology, neuroscience, computer science, philosophy and linguistics.

The major is designed to familiarize students with methodologies for studying the mind drawn from the core cognitive science disciplines and applied to central issues in cognitive science. For example, how do we interpret sensory experience? How is memory organized in the mind and brain? How do we remember and why do we forget? How are components of language (sound, meaning, syntax) represented in the mind and brain and how do they interact? What does consciousness add to cognition and what cognitive processes are nonconscious?

Majors are required to take a computer science course designed for cognitive science students as well as a course with an experimental research requirement. Students acquire breadth with selection of courses that differ in disciplinary focus and depth by selecting a subconcentration in psychology or computer science and an advanced seminar. All seniors complete a year-long senior thesis including original research designed in collaboration with the thesis advisor. The program emphasizes hands-on research and virtually all students obtain paid summer research positions, on or off campus.

Harrison Goodall ’16, a cognitive science and theater double major and 2016 Watson Fellowship recipient.

What You’ll Study

    • Computational models of the mind
    • Cognition and the arts
    • Why we are conscious
    • Neural basis of cognition
    • When cognition is nonconscious
The number of departments offering courses in the cognitive science major.

Researching at Pomona

Vienna Vance

Studying Child Development

Vienna Vance '21, interested in studying child development, interned at a local enrichment center for children with developmental disabilities.

Shanaya Stephenson Slideshow

Studying Sexism and Bias Manifest

Shanaya Stephenson ’19 has focused her research on sexism in language, having done a corpus study of the U.S. 2016 primary election debates and how candidates referred to each other. This summer, she will travel to Guatemala on a Summer Undergraduate Research Project (SURP) to explore how sexism manifests in the Mayan language of Kaqchikel.

Shanaya Stephenson Quote
Shanaya Stephenson ’19

“When I chose this major, I wanted to learn about the language-y parts of the brain and design experiments. Now I see that there's a philosophical importance to studying the mind; this discipline can lead to so much self-discovery and a much deeper, more nuanced understanding of humanity.”

Faculty & Teaching

Our cognitive science faculty’s areas of expertise include aging and cognition, emotion and cognition, language and memory, and neural processes involved in language. Affiliated professors represent the disciplines of music, computer science, philosophy, cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. 

Professor Deborah Burke

Cognitive science faculty members encourage students to do research outside their courses and students want opportunities for research. During the summer, virtually all majors have paid positions in laboratories in universities or industry. These positions have been a rich source of ideas for theses and jobs after graduation.