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Cognitive Science

Unravel the intricacies of the mind

Why study cognitive science at Macalester?

At Macalester, cognitive scientists work with natural and artificial intelligence systems to solve problems and create a better world.

Macalester’s innovative cognitive science concentration not only draws from the traditional departments, such as computer science, linguistics, psychology, and philosophy, but expands our view of cognitive science to include economics and English. This gives students a more humanistic perspective than other schools. For example, in an interdisciplinary English course, students read science fiction to examine the nature of human cognition. Our interdisciplinary approach means that students engage deeply with the subject matter and apply a variety of frameworks to their studies. The broader our view of cognitive science, the better we can understand how the mind works.

Study cognitive science at Macalester and you’ll explore questions like:

  • How do people learn, remember, and think? How much of our cognitive life are we even consciously aware of?
  • Can music help people learn languages?
  • How will the promises of technology, or the lethal threats of scarcity, change what it means to be a thinking, feeling human?
  • Could a robot have moral rights and responsibilities?
  • How can eye movements reveal the moment-to-moment processes of face recognition, or reading?
  • How do we create design systems that inspire joy instead of frustration? And how do we ensure that we design for everyone, including people who may be very different from ourselves?
  • Why is language always changing?
  • How do the senses work? How do these senses impact experience?
  • How do we use language to move ideas from one mind to many?

Our courses prioritize hands-on activities such as programming robots, designing and running experiments with human participants, and trips to local research institutions, rather than lectures. Through these activities, students develop skills in statistical techniques, research methods, and data science.

Life after Macalester

Understanding how intelligent systems learn, behave, and think is at the heart of countless fields.

Learning in the cities

Access to the University of Minnesota’s top research labs


Number of internship sites within 8 miles of campus, including research institutions

Access to alumni in the Twin Cities who can help you plan your future

Photo of Malini Sharma working at a computer

Robot Coder

Malini Sharma spent the summer applying her knowledge of neuroscience and computer science to code a robot’s brain.