What is Cognitive Science?
Since Cognitive Science is such a new and budding field (with official origins stemming from the 1970's), I find myself explaining what it is quite often. I love it more every time I do.
Cognitive Science is the study of mind from the perspective of a variety of disciplines including but not limited to the fields below. Being a Cognitive Science student at UC Berkeley allowed me to take a wonderful array of courses since CogSci is an interdisciplinary discipline. I go on to explain what kinds of ideas, people, and research fall under each branch of CogSci so that it's not a meaningless list of vague disciplines, but by no means is this an exhaustive list—just what comes to my mind when I cogitate of the elegant, collaborative weave of study and pursuit of knowledge that is Cognitive Science.
For a well-written and comprehensive introduction to Cognitive Science, check out Mind as machine: a history of cognitive science, Volume 1 by Margaret A. Boden, 2006.
The study of how the brain gives rise to our cognition (Our thoughts, goals, behaviors, perceptions, etc.).
Studying brain regions, neurochemicals, and connectivity of neural networks.
Common methods of study: fMRI/MRI, EEG, PET, TMS, ECog, DTI (We are big fans of acronyms in neuroscience if you haven't noticed!), pharmacology, genetic testing, behavioral testing, and just plain digging in (neuroanatomy) etc.
Historically, different parts of the brain have been known to control different aspects of our lives (like speech, motor control, sight, etc.). A hard-lined view of this in which every human behavior has a designated area in the brain is a theory called 'localization' that is becoming obsolete in modern day neuroscience.>>
The brain along with the rest of the human body is an integrated and cohesive unit; working as one in order to provide the full spectrum of a conscious experience. In other words, the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
Modern day neuroscience is showing us that the brain works in what are called neural networks, groups of neurons that have formed together to form channels throughout the brain. It is through these channels that different parts of the brain communicate with each other and allow you to do things like smell a flower, recognize the beautiful scent and categorize it as pleasant, turn to your friend, smile and say "I love roses."
The CogSci major at Cal: We are required to take two courses directly studying the brain and cognition. As a student specializing in neuroscience, you can delve into great courses taught by some of the best faculty on campus including Brain Mind and Behavior, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Human Neuropsychology.<< >>
Intersection of Neuro and Philosophy: The seemingly never-ending plight for the NCC (the neural correlate of consciousness). Neuroscientists like myself, dream of the day of finding "that one neural network or "that one brain area near that other area no one studies" that is the catalyst and the cause behind human consciousness. On the other hand, just like an epic romance or meatloaf, the mystery and complexity of consciousness is half the fun (well, about 20% on bad days and 55% on good ones).<<
Psychology is the original study of the mind.
Psychology= Psych + Ology
The word Psyche, which was the original focus of study of psychology, comes from the Ancient Greek ψυχή, which means soul or breath. And of course, ology also comes from the Ancient Greek suffix, -λογία, which means study in this context. Looking at modern day psychology, it is a far cry from the holistic study of the human spirit that it originally was.>>
A great deal of Cognitive Science research stems from paradigms and mysteries of the mind that the field of psychology has discovered.
Some of the greats…
William James, the Father of Psychology, introduced the stream of consciousness.
Wilhelm Wundt, Father of Experimental Psychology, created the first laboratory to study psychology and emphasized that we must focus on only the physical, observable traits of the human.
Psychology went from studying the soul to proposing the non-existence and epiphenomenon of the "psyche"/soul.
J.B. Watson and Behaviorism: Essentially implied no mind as we know it and that everything is a practiced habit/behavior.<< >>
George Miller: The capacity of our mind: How much can you hold in your brain-bag at once? 7 is the lucky number…
Gave rise to great developments like the theory of "chunking" information to remember it and memorize it easier (like in a phone number). I also love to say, "chunking." Go ahead, say it, you know you want to.
Well, let's be honest, philosophy started everything. Before there was the study of anything, there must have been a desire to know.
Philosophy= Philo + Sophia, both from Ancient Greek, meaning love (Philo) of wisdom (Sophia).
Some of the greats…
John Searle (I had the pleasure of taking all of his undergrad classes and working with him closely during my first 2 years at Cal)
Are brains like computers? This is a question that is one of the defining pillars of Cognitive Science.
Turing Machine (Alan Turing) Is cognition binary? (1's and 0's)
Searle's controversial Chinese Room Argument
The difference between syntax and semantics
This question isn't asked so directly anymore, but strands of it interweave lovingly into most current computational neuroscience. As with most things, we come to realize that it's not so black and white. There are theories, evidence, and models of cognition that fall on a spectrum between these traditional views, and we just don't know enough yet to stop oscillating between the many perspectives.>>
Some of the greats…
John McCarthy: Father of Lisp
Marvin Minsky: Artificial Intelligence starts to become a reality
John Von Neumann: Logic, set theory, game theory, author of "The Computer and the Brain," and the development of the Von Neumann Machine, the digital computer
Alan Turing: Questions like, "What does it mean for a task to be computed?" led to the Turing Machine—one of the most significant corner stone's of cognitive science.<< >>
Computational Models of Cognition/Artificial Intelligence
The CogSci major at Cal: Requires us to take a course in either Computational modeling or Artificial Intelligence (the latter being in the CompSci dept. and requiring more background in coding). The Computational Models of Cognition course uses Matlab to traverse many different types of modeling of cognition intermixed with great historical information about the study of cognition.
Structure and Interpretation of Computer ProgramsAs a CogSci major at Cal: We take CS61a in which (at least back in my day) we learn Scheme, a simple yet powerful lisp language that is great for teaching the syntax and semantics of computer science. It's not really good for anything else. <<