Coordinator: Associate Professor Elizabeth Casserly (Psychology)

Of what are minds made? How do people think, perceive, and feel? What is the nature of human consciousness? What is the relationship of the mind to the brain? In what ways is the human mind like, or unlike, a computer? These are a few of the central questions of cognitive science, the interdisciplinary study of the human mind. In recent years, cognitive science has undergone explosive growth. The diverse methods of cognitive science encompass, among others, thought experiments, computer simulations, brain scans, and perceptual and behavioral laboratory experiments. Cognitive scientists study robots, machine learning, the origins of human language, sensory augmentation, and the collective behavior of organisms from individual cells to members of a symphonic orchestra.

The cognitive science minor comprises six courses that explore the diverse approaches to understanding and investigating the mind. Three courses must be in the core areas of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind, and two courses serve as electives in the wider aspects of cognitive study. An integrating exercise is also required, in the form of either a related seminar, an independent study, or an expansion of a project or thesis in the major discipline. At least one course needs to be at the 300 level or above, and all courses must be approved by the coordinator. Students must receive at least a C- in any course for it to be counted toward the minor.

Course requirements:

  • One course in each of the following core aspects of the interdisciplinary approach to cognition:
    • Cognitive psychology (thought, memory, decision-making, etc.)
    • Neurological “hardware” (introductory course on neuroscience, brain/behavior relationships)
    • Philosophy of the mind
  • Two elective courses focused on the following other cognitive science topics:
    • Artificial intelligence
    • Modeling of intelligent behavior and/or systems
    • Language (or communication more broadly)
    • Decision-making
    • Other aspects of cognition (emotion, logic, argument, perception, etc.)
  • Integrating exercise consisting of one of the following:
    • One upper-level seminar focusing on an interdisciplinary topic related to cognitive science from any department or program.
    • One credit of independent study or research assistantship on a topic related to cognitive science under the supervision of a faculty member affiliated with the cognitive science minor or approved by the coordinator.
    • If the student completes a credit-bearing senior exercise related to cognitive science in the major field (thesis, design project, etc.), they may augment that exercise in a way that integrates knowledge from courses taken from the minor and elaborates the connections to cognitive science (particularly to disciplines outside the major field).
      • This option can only be completed with prior permission of the minor coordinator and instructor/supervisor in the major field.
      • Student must register for an independent study that will officially count as the cognitive science exercise. The independent study registration can be with the thesis advisor, the minor coordinator, or another member of the faculty with prior approval from the coordinator.
      • Suggested augmentations include an additional chapter or section in the written thesis, a presentation, or a short additional paper focusing on cognitive science connections.