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.
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
Studying the “Bilingual Advantage”
Carly Grimes ’18 traveled to Granada, Spain to investigate the positive effects of bilingualism on cognition, called the ‘bilingual advantage’, especially on so-called executive control processes.
Exploring the Brain of Bilingual People
David Cremins ’18 investigated the modulation of language regions in the frontal parts of the brain of bilinguals. He looked at whether certain neural changes are linked to bilinguals’ ability to work efficiently in other domains of thought.
Researching the Brain and Cognition
Joshua Ortiz ’17 investigated cognitive domains that share hierarchical syntactic rules and structure, namely language, music, algebra to see whether these different cognitive systems share an underlying neural area, namely, the inferior frontal gyrus which is known to be critical for language.
Cognitive Insufficiencies in Psychopaths
Kailey Lawson ’17 conducted research at a forensic psychiatric hospital where she focused on why criminals have disordered thinking to find ways to combat these deficits.
Cognitive science embodies the liberal arts. From studying models of artificial intelligence to understanding the power of language in society, the major has challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and make connections between many interrelated fields. Examining questions of consciousness, mind, and brain through multiple frameworks has given me a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be human.
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.
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.