Program Description

The Cognitive Studies degree program offers an integrative approach to the study of human consciousness and cognitive processing. This interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary program draws from fields including philosophy, computer science, psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, art, biology, and physics. Cognitive Studies emphasizes strategies for investigating how real (biological) and artificial (computational) brains individually and cooperatively solve problems, form concepts, process language, interpret visual and other sensory input, and develop understandings of the world. Students in the program will examine traditional approaches to understanding the mind, with a strong emphasis on philosophical, psychological, and physiological approaches. The degree program includes integrative courses at the introductory and advanced levels that draw from, consolidate, and expand the material students have learned in coursework from the various contributing disciplines. Central themes include the view of consciousness as an information processing system, how consciousness arises from basic physiological processes, the emergence of patterns and adaptive pattern-recognition, and nonlinear dynamical methods for modeling complex systems. We focus on the use of language, symbols, and images for representing, manipulating, and communicating knowledge. Students are encouraged to examine issues associated with human/machine interfaces, and will explore basic processes of memory and decision, the relation of thought to action, and recent advances in machine intelligence.

Adequate investigations of these phenomena require a synthesis of skills, methods, and knowledge, and depend on considerable facility with information technology tools and systems. Thus, in addition to their broad-based conceptual analysis of intelligent systems, students will be trained in a diversity of scientific methods and techniques, including rigorous quantitative analysis and effective computer simulations. The program will help students develop strong skills in using, understanding, and evaluating information technologies such as internet resources and data base systems. Students will develop strong communication skills, and the ability to present and convey information clearly and effectively orally, in writing, and in internet based presentations. Students completing this program will have gained the ability to apply the methods of gathering empirical evidence, developing meaningful simulations, and applying rigorous conceptual analysis, to the difficult problem of understanding human consciousness. Students will have learned how to apply interdisciplinary methods to the analysis of complex problems, and to the discovery and development of solutions to such problems. More generally, they will be able to apply all these approaches together to enrich their own understanding of the complex world we live in. The graduate in Cognitive Studies will be prepared for work in fields requiring strong interdisciplinary problem solving skills and depending on contemporary information technologies. Students will also be prepared for entry into graduate programs in cognitive science or related fields.