Cognitive Science Concentration

Cognitive science is the study of how knowledge is acquired, stored, represented, and used by intelligent systems, both natural and artificial. Over the past 50 years, the study of cognition has developed into an interdisciplinary science by synthesizing aspects of computer science, linguistics, philosophy, and psychology, and is concerned with topics such as memory, decision-making, problem solving, and language comprehension. More recently, the field has developed strong links to neuroscience, behavioral economics, and other disciplines. Because the field developed as an interdisciplinary science, it represents the best aspects of the Liberal Arts and requires students to utilize concepts and techniques that emerge from a broad knowledge base of a variety of related fields.

The Cognitive Science concentration at Macalester exposes students to scientific studies of the mind and other intelligent systems from a variety of academic disciplines. The core of the concentration consists of rigorous coursework on the nature of such systems from the perspective of Philosophy, Psychology, Computer Science, Linguistics and Economics.

Cognitive Science Concentration

Structure of the Concentration

The concentration requires one statistics course, six content courses from the categories described below, and a poster presentation at the annual Cognitive Science Poster Session. To ensure distinction between the concentration and the student's major, at least four courses must be independent of the student's major. In addition, no more than three courses can be drawn from any one department, and at least four courses must be at the 200-level or above. When appropriate, students may propose to meet their concentration objectives by taking other courses, including those offered at other institutions or abroad. In all situations, students are strongly encouraged to seek the advice of a steering committee member in selecting a coherent set of courses that meet their educational goals and complement their major. Students should also consult with a steering committee member regarding the contents and scheduling of their poster presentation.

Statistics course (one)

One of the following is required for the concentration:

GEOG 378 - Statistical Research Methods in Geography 
MATH 155 - Introduction to Statistical Modeling 
POLI 269 - Empirical Research Methods 
PSYC 201 - Research in Psychology I 
SOCI 269 - Social Science Inquiry 

Content Courses (six total)

A. Two courses that are primarily about ways of understanding cognitive systems:

ECON 490 - Behavioral and Experimental Economics 
EDUC 220 - Educational Psychology 
PHIL 213 - Philosophy of Mind 
PSYC 242 - Cognitive Psychology 
PSYC 244 - Cognitive Neuroscience 
PSYC 246 - Exploring Sensation and Perception 
PSYC 385 - Mind Reading: Understanding Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging 

B. Two courses related to and substantially about cognition:

COMP 484 - Introduction to Artificial Intelligence 
PHIL 311 - Philosophy of Language 
PHIL 312 - Philosophy of Mathematics 
PSYC 100 - Introduction to Psychology 
PSYC 180 - Brain, Mind, and Behavior 
PSYC 377 - Moral Psychology 
PSYC 378 - Psychology of Language 

C. Two courses that provide rich examples, background knowledge or skills, or analytical frameworks that enrich the understanding of cognitive science (Section A or B courses can be substituted for Section C courses):

COMP 123 - Core Concepts in Computer Science 
COMP 261 - Theory of Computation 
COMP 380 - Bodies/Minds: AI Robotics 
COMP 440 - Collective Intelligence 
ECON 119 - Principles of Economics 
ECON 361 - Intermediate Microeconomic Analysis 
ENGL 260 - Science Fiction: From Matrix Baby Cannibals to Brave New Worlds 
LING 100 - Introduction to Linguistics 
LING 204 - Experimental Linguistics 
PHIL 110 - Critical Thinking 
PHIL 111 - Introduction to Symbolic Logic 
PHIL 201 - Modern Philosophy 
PHIL 225 - Ethics and the Internet 
PHIL 310 - Philosophy of Science 
PHIL 313 - Advanced Symbolic Logic 
PHIL 314 - Contemporary Metaphysics and Epistemology 
POLI 270 - Rhetoric of Campaigns and Election 
PSYC 254 - Social Psychology 

Poster Presentation at Cognitive Science Poster Session

The Cognitive Science Poster Session will be held annually during the spring semester and will provide an opportunity for students to present their work in cognitive science as well as hear about their peers' work. Students will be required to present a poster describing a completed cognitive science project during at least one of these annual sessions. The project will be based on work completed for a class or independent study, and the poster will describe the project and how it fits into the larger discipline of cognitive science. Students will typically present their poster during the senior year, although it is possible that some situations would warrant presenting during the junior year. As noted above, all students will consult with a steering committee member regarding the contents and scheduling of their poster presentation. In addition, all concentrators will be encouraged to attend the poster session every year, even when they are not presenting.