The Cognitive Science Major

Cognitive science is growing, as predicted, both nationally and internationally. The United Nations University, the National Science Foundation, and the US Chamber of Commerce have all recognized cognitive science as one of the top four sciences to see unprecedented growth in the 21st century along with genetics, nanotechnology, and information technology. Cognitive scientists work in a variety of areas, including education, economics, computer science and engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, philosophy, and biology.

In 1978, the Sloan Foundation identified six central disciplines that feed into cognitive science. These included anthropology, artificial intelligence, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. In the years following, other disciplines have also been providing central insights pertinent to cognitive science: these include evolutionary biology, social psychology, economics, mathematics, and robotics. Faculty research interests include brain-computer interfaces, social networking, the biological evolution of cognition, music cognition, robotics, philosophical challenges in the philosophy of mind, and decision theory.

The curriculum is lean enough to allow for considerable flexibility while still including the essentials. By allowing a range of options for the methods requirement, the cognitive science major falls easily within the reach of philosophy, psychology, economics, applied mathematics, and neuroscience majors, along with most other humanities majors. Triple majors are also possible with careful schedule planning.

Major Requirements

44 or 48 hours, depending on proseminar credits and how students meet the methods requirement.

Foundational Requirements (12 to 15 hours)

  • COGS 100, 200, 300 and 400 – Proseminar in Cognitive Science (0 to 3 hours)
  • COGS 111 - Introduction to Cognitive Science (3 hours)
  • NEUR 125 - Introduction to Behavioral Neuroscience (3 hours)
  • PHIL 221 - Early Modern Philosophy (3 hours)
  • PHIL 231 - Symbolic Logic (3 hours)

Methods Requirements (8 or 9 hours)

Students may meet their methods requirement in one of five disciplines. Each option was carefully selected to lay out the skills necessary to undertake cognitive science research in the area of interest that most suits the students individually. (Note that some options have prerequisites that the student must take in advance of taking courses to meet the methods requirement.)

  • Biology - BIOL 107 General Biology (4) and BIOL 320 Evolution and Ecology (4) – includes five hours of lab experience
  • Computer Science – CS 210 Fundamentals of Programming I (3), CS 215 Fundamentals of Programming II (3), and either CS 290 Object-Oriented Programming (3) or CS 315 Algorithms and Data Structures (3)
  • Economics - QM 227 Quantitative Methods (3), ECON 300 Regression Analysis (3), and ECON 400 Econometrics (3)
  • Mathematics - MATH 365 Probability (3), MATH 466 Statistics (3), and either MATH 370 Discrete and Combinatorial Mathematics (3) or MATH 373 Numerical Methods (3)
  • Psychology - PSYC 245 Statistics for Psychologists (4) and PSYC 246 Research Methods in Psychology (4)

Upper Division Requirements (21 hours)

  • PSYC 355 - Sensation and Perception (3 hours)
  • NEUR 357 - Neuropsychology (3 hours)
  • PSYC 366 - Cognitive Psychology (3 hours)
  • PHIL 445 - History and Philosophy of Science (3 hours)
  • PHIL 447 - Philosophy of Mind (3 hours)
  • PHIL 451 – Philosophy of Agency (3 hours)
  • COGS 345 – Complex Systems (3 hours)
  • COGS 498 - Seminar in Cognitive Science (3 hours)

Minor Requirements

18 hours to include COGS 111 Introduction to Cognitive Science (3), NEUR 125 Introduction to Behavioral Neuroscience (3), COGS 498 Seminar in Cognitive Science (3), plus three elective courses from the following:

  • PSYC 355 Sensation and Perception (3)
  • NEUR 357 Neuropsychology (3)
  • PSYC 366 Cognitive Psychology (3)
  • PHIL 445 History and Philosophy of Science (3)
  • PHIL 447 Philosophy of Mind (3)
  • PHIL 451 Philosophy of Agency (3)

Substitutions for the three elective courses are permitted with pertinent courses from other areas on the approval of the director of cognitive science. These can include courses from anthropology, biology, computer science, economics, education, engineering, mathematics, or other courses from philosophy and/or psychology.

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Office Location:
Room 343, Olmsted Administration Hall