Cognitive Science Courses

Required Courses

COGS 222 Minds, Brains, and Intelligent Behavior: An Introduction to Cognitive Science

COGS 493 Advanced Topics in Mind and Cognition

In years where COGS 493 is not offered, students should register for COGS 497 and should contact Joseph Cruz, Program Chair for details.

All Courses

COGS 129(F, S) LEC Language and the Mind

Many animals communicate, but only humans can use language. What is language? Is the ability to learn it specialized, or just a matter of having enough cognitive processing power? Do successes of large language models and AI chat bots confirm or challenge traditional linguistic theory? Does language in any way determine, shape, or enable thought? How sophisticated could a mind without language be? Does knowledge of language require consciousness? In this course we will investigate (a) what makes language stand out from other kinds of communication system and (b) what makes human minds uniquely capable of acquiring language. Drawing on debates about the evolution of language, Chomskyian universal grammar, the computational theory of mind, and more, we will explore the philosophical consequences of our existance as linguistic creatures. [ more ]

COGS 222(S) LEC Minds, Brains, and Intelligent Behavior: An Introduction to Cognitive Science

This course will emphasize interdisciplinary approaches to the study of intelligent systems, both natural and artificial. Cognitive science synthesizes research from cognitive psychology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, and contemporary philosophy. Special attention will be given to the philosophical foundations of cognitive science, representation and computation in symbolic and connectionist architectures, concept acquisition, problem solving, perception, language, semantics, reasoning, and artificial intelligence. [ more ]

COGS 224(F) LEC Introduction to Formal Linguistics

The sentence "Every cookie is chocolate chip and three of them are oatmeal raisin" is a perfectly grammatical sentence of English, but it's self-contradictory. What does it take to realize this fact? One must grasp the meanings of the various parts of the sentence. In particular, one must grasp that "three of them" picks out a subset of the group picked out by "every cookie", and that there's no such thing as a cookie that is both chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin. There two ways to understand "Many students took every class". According to one, there is a single group of students that had their hands extremely full this semester. According to the other, every class was well-populated, potentially by different groups. The reason for this is that there are two underlying structures that the original sentence can realize. This course serves as an introduction to formal methods in the scientific study of language. Our goal will be to characterize phenomena like those above with logical and mathematical precision. The focus will be on model-theoretic semantics, the sub-field of linguistics that studies meanings. Along the way we will discuss principles of syntax, the sub-field that studies sentence structures, and pragmatics, the sub-field that studies inferences of non-literal content. This is a formal course, but no prior logical or mathematical background will be expected. Starting from scratch, students will learn the building blocks of current-day linguistic research. This introduction will be of use to students interested in language from a variety of perspectives, including philosophy, cognitive science, and computer science. [ more ]

COGS 323 TUT Visual Consciousness

Last offered Fall 2022

Consciousness is considered as the 'last great mystery of science.' In this course we are going to delve into one of the most well-studied areas of this mystery, that is visual consciousness. Do you really perceive everything you look at? Are you aware of everything you see? Is our visual experience a grand illusion? We will start our investigation of such questions by reading about various approaches in understanding human consciousness. Then, we are going to apply these approaches to perception, and discuss theoretical and empirical controversies in visual consciousness. Finally, we are going to focus on evaluating empirical studies that attempt to resolve such controversies. The goal of this course is to build a bridge between theory and experimentation by learning how to interpret the results of scientific studies to shed light on theoretical and philosophical debates in the literature. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

COGS 328 SEM Cognitive Approaches to Visual Perception

Last offered Spring 2023

When you open your eyes, you immediately perceive your environment in great detail. Seeing is so quick and effortless that people mistakenly think that vision works like a camera. However, the reason it feels effortless is due to the tremendous amount of complex processes and computations that take place in your brain whenever you open your eyes. In this course, we will explore such processes from a computational perspective and examine the concept of "visual illusion". We will focus on research methodologies used in vision science and look into how we can use such methodologies to explain visual illusions. We will learn about how our visual system processes certain visual features in our environment, such as motion, color, depth and shape. Learning about these processes will make us appreciate how everything we see around us can be a visual illusion. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

COGS 390 SEM Discourse Dynamics

Last offered Spring 2023

It'd be perfectly natural to say "I might've left the stove on", then check the stove, then say "I didn't leave the stove on". But perform those exact same steps in a different order--check the stove, say "I didn't leave the stove on", then say "I might've left the stove on"--and something's gone quite wrong. Conversation is dynamic--the back and forth exchange of information is a process that grows and adapts to the surrounding context. The order in which you say things matters, and it matters for what you communicate what actions you take and what events happen around you. In this course, we will investigate dynamic communicative phenomena and discuss competing theoretical explanations about how they're interpreted. Of particular interest will be the extent to which discourse dynamics are built into the meanings of linguistic expressions vs. the extent to which they're consequences of our rational cognition. Is a sentence's relation to previously uttered sentences similar to its relation to extra-linguistic events? How much inference goes into interpreting what's said? In pursuing the answers to these questions, we will discuss both classic and contemporary theories from philosophy and linguistics. [ more ]

COGS 493(F) SEM Advanced Topics in Mind and Cognition

In the last decade the science of the mind has continued to draw on its 20th century history as well as expand its methodological repertoire. In this seminar we will investigate some of the current trends in mind and cognition. We will attend both to the specific empirical details as well as the conceptual foundations of cognitive science. In particular, we will focus on the concept of mental representation, which is the core and defining theoretical posit in the field of cognitive sciences. We will discuss both the philosophical foundations of this concept, as well as how it is utilized in the current empirical literature in this field. [ more ]

COGS 494(S) HON Senior Thesis: Cognitive Science

The senior concentrator, having completed the senior seminar and with approval from the advisory committee, may devote winter study and the spring semester to a senior thesis based on the fall research project. [ more ]