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Cornell University    
  Aug 18, 2017
Courses of Study 2014-2015 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Cognitive Science

In the College of Arts and Sciences .


Course Offerings 

Cognitive Science comprises a number of disciplines that are linked by a major concern with fundamental capacities of the mind, such as perception, memory, reasoning, language, the organization of motor action, and their neural correlates. In the College of Arts and Sciences these disciplines are represented in the departments of Computer Science, Economics, Linguistics, Mathematics, Neurobiology and Behavior, Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology. Elsewhere in the university they are represented in the departments of Mechanical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (College of Engineering); the departments of Design and Environmental Analysis and Human Development (College of Human Ecology); the departments of Communication and Education (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences); the Information Science Program, and the Johnson Graduate School of Management.

The issues addressed in Cognitive Science arise at several levels. At the broadest level are problems of characterizing such basic notions as “mind,” “knowledge,” “information,” and “meaning.” At a more specific level are questions regarding the abstract operating principles of individual components of the mind, such as those underlying visual perception, language ability, and understanding of concepts. These principles concern the organization and behavior of the components and how they are biologically represented in the brain. At the most specific level are questions about the properties of the elementary computational structures and processes that constitute these components.

Important insights into issues of these kinds have been achieved in recent years as a result of the various Cognitive Science disciplines converging in their theoretical and methodological approaches. It is this convergence, in fact, that warrants grouping the disciplines together under the single term “Cognitive Science.” Even greater progress can be expected in the future as a consequence of increasing cooperation among the disciplines.



M. Christiansen (psychology) and Jeff Hancock (information science), directors. G. Gay, J. Hancock (communication); C. Cardie, J. Halpern, T. Joachims, L. Lee, B. Selman, R. Zabih (computer science); G. Evans, A. Hedge (design and environmental analysis); K. Basu, L. Blume, D. Easley (economics); D. Schrader (education); C. Brainerd, M. Casasola, S. Ceci, B. Koslowski, T. Kushnir, B. Lust, V. Reyna, S. Robertson, Q. Wang, E. Wethington, W. Williams (human development); J. Goncalo and M. Williams (ILR); J. Bowers, A. Cohn, M. Diesing, J. Hale, W. Harbert, S. Murray, M. Rooth, S. Tilsen, J. Whitman, D. Zec (linguistics); K. O’Connor and J. Russo (management); A. Nerode, R. Shore (mathematics); H. Lipson; R. Harris-Warrick, H. Howland, R. Hoy, C. Linster (neurobiology and behavior); M. Eklund, H. Hodes, D. Pereboom (philosophy); T. Cleland, J. Cutting, T. DeVoogd, D. Dunning, S. Edelman, M. Ferguson, D. Field, B. Finlay, T. Gilovich, M. Goldstein, R. Johnston, C. Krumhansl, D. Pizarro, H. Porte, E. Adkins Regan, V. Zayas (psychology); Laurent Dubreuil (romance studies); R. Canfield (human ecology) and S. Hertz (linguistics), associate members. R. Darlington, J. Dunn, J. Gair, C. Ginet, B. Halpern, S. McConnell-Ginet, R. Ripple, S. Shoemaker (emeriti).

Undergraduate Minor:

An interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in Cognitive Science is available to Cornell University undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences. Students from other colleges who seek such a minor should discuss the possibilities with the Cognitive Science office, who will provide information and contacts concerning these minors.

The undergraduate minor in Cognitive Science is designed to enable students to engage in a structured program directly related to the scientific study of cognition and the mind. The minor provides a framework for the design of structured, supervised programs of study in this growing interdisciplinary field. Such programs of study serve as complements to course work in a single discipline as represented by an individual department. It is considered crucial that students gain a strong background in their major, independent of their work in the minor. Independent majors and college scholars may also apply. Colleges vary in their procedures for formal recognition of this minor (contact the Cognitive Science office for details). The Cognitive Science Program faculty have designed five structured “tracks” that offer students different ways of satisfying the minor. In addition, students are always able to construct their own programs of study subject to approval by their minor advisor. The courses listed under each track are program suggestions. The student should consult his or her Cognitive Science advisor to develop a more customized curriculum. In some cases, students may want to combine or cross tracks.

In general, it is expected that students in the minor will take COGST 1101  or COGST 3140  as their introductory course requirement; either COGST 4120 , COGST 4500 , or COGST 4700  as their lab course requirement; and three courses at the 3000- and 4000-level in at least two departments (or certain suitable 2000-level courses by petition). Courses are to be chosen by student and advisor to provide a coherent program. Even though only five courses are required to complete the minor, we assume students interested in Cognitive Science will often end up taking more. An independent research project (e.g., COGST 4700  if this is not used to satisfy the lab requirement) and a research workshop (COGST 4710 ) are encouraged. Please note: minor modifications to this outline may be made in extenuating circumstances by the advisor, in consultation with the program director.

The five typical tracks are as follows. Note that many of these courses have substantial prerequisites.

1. Perception and Cognition:

This track focuses on psychological, computational, and neurobiological approaches to the interface between perception and cognition. Students will develop a grasp of the continuum between sensory impressions and complex thought.

2. Language and Cognition:

This track focuses on the representation, processing, and acquisition and learning of language, as well as its role in cognition and culture. Students will acquire skills and knowledge in formal and applied linguistic theory, psycholinguistic experimentation, and computational modeling techniques.

3. Cognition and Information Processing:

This track focuses on how the mind (or a computer) can encode, represent, and store information. Students will develop an understanding of concepts, categories, memory, and the nature of information itself.

4. Cognitive Neuroscience:

This track focuses on neurobiological and computational approaches to understanding how perception and cognition emerge in the human brain. Students will acquire knowledge of what neural structures subserve what perceptual/cognitive processes, and how they interact.

5. Independent Study:

With approval from the Cognitive Science undergraduate curriculum committee, a student and advisor in the Cognitive Science program can arrange their own unique collection of courses that do not belong to the above categories for satisfying the minor requirements.

Additional Information:

A Cognitive Science undergraduate laboratory and computer facility (201 Uris Hall) is available for all students in a Cognitive Science minor. This facility will help link resources from different laboratories across the Cornell campus as well as providing a central location for developing and conducting experimental research in Cognitive Science.

Students who complete the minor requirements will have their minor in Cognitive Science officially represented on their transcript. In addition, students who have made substantial progress toward completing the requirements for the minor will be eligible for enrollment in the graduate courses in Cognitive Science during their senior year.

Minor Application Procedures. Initial inquiries concerning the undergraduate concentration should be made to the Cognitive Science Program manager, Julie Simmons-Lynch,, (607) 255-6431, who will provide application materials.

To formally initiate the minor in Cognitive Science, a student must gain approval for a selection of courses from a minor advisor (one of the program faculty). The courses selected must form a coherent cluster that makes sense to both the advisor and the student. To be admitted to the minor, the student must submit this plan of study to the Cognitive Science undergraduate faculty committee for final approval.

In addition to assisting in and approving the student’s selection of courses, the minor advisor serves as a general source of information about the field of Cognitive Science, relevant resources around the university, and job and graduate school opportunities. Often, the advisor can help the student develop independent research experience.

Independent Research. The minor encourages each student to be involved in independent research that bears on research issues in Cognitive Science, if possible. COGST 4700  is available for this purpose. It is recommended that students report on their research activities in an annual undergraduate forum. The Undergraduate Minor Committee is committed to helping students find an appropriate research placement when needed.

The current director of undergraduate studies is Jeffrey Hancock, communication,

Graduate Minor:

Entering graduate students, as well as advanced undergraduates, who are interested in cognition and in the cognitive sciences are advised to take the proseminar course attend cognitive science colloquia throughout the school year.

Graduate students minoring in Cognitive Science will take additional courses recommended by their graduate committee to complete their course requirements.

For more information, consult the program office (233 Uris Hall, (607) 255-6431, or the director of graduate studies, Morten Christiansen,

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