Introduction to Cognitive Science

UG Y1/2

Course description

This course introduces students to cognitive science, a field at the intersection of several disciplines including philosophy, psychology, linguistics, computer science, human-computer interaction, and neuroscience. The course has two broad aims:

  1. To provide a high-level perspective on a set of key questions that the field of cognitive science aims to address.
  2. To provide hands-on training in computational skills that will serve as a necessary foundation for future related courses in PPLS and Informatics.

Students who have participated fully in the course will:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the themes and questions encompassed by cognitive science across a variety of disciplines
  2. Evaluate recent findings in cognitive science to identify how they inform long- standing debates in the field
  3. Be able to discuss and appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of cognitive science
  4. Implement concrete tasks in a computer programming language to acquire the transferable skill of writing, testing, and amending computer code


Students attend 2 hours of lecture per week, 2 hours of programming lab per week, as well as 1 hour of tutorial.

Course content

This course is divided into three themed blocks:

  1. Nativism & Empiricism:   Basic questions about the degree to which certain cognitive capacities are “native”, or hard-wired, in the human brain from birth or can be learned via empirical evidence during development.

  2. Representation:   Principles regarding the types of hypothesized structures and symbols that could be used to represent external reality in the human brain or in a computational model.

  3. Situated Cognition:   Fundamental approaches to cognition that incorporate the physical constraints and affordances of the body.