6: College of Arts and Sciences

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Program in Cognitive Science

Course Descriptions

Overview   Cognitive science is the study of cognition--cognition being the structure, acquisition, and use of knowledge. Knowledge-based systems process information. That is, they have the capabilities of encoding information, applying lawful transformations on these inputs, and modifying their processing logic in accordance with changes in both their inputs and their own outputs.

The scientific study of information processing systems has developed in a number of interrelated yet distinct disciplines, especially cognitive psychology, computer science, linguistics, and neuroscience. These disciplines are all concerned with the processing of information; however, they focus on somewhat different systems. To summarize briefly, cognitive psychology is concerned with all of the human information processing faculties. Computer science deals with the modeling or automation of intelligent functions on digital hardware. Linguistics is concerned with a particular cognitive faculty, language, sometimes studied from the perspective of its use by people, but often modeled without concern for human performance limitations. Finally, neuroscience seeks to explain how information processing functions are performed within the constraints of the neuroanatomical structure of biological systems.

Increasingly, these distinct disciplines are developing overlapping domains of inquiry. For example, often the competencies that a computer scientist wishes to model are within the human repertoire of skills, and thus, their logic is understood to some degree by cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers of knowledge. Moreover, all of these disciplines can be seen to converge in their inquiry into the form and function of language.

Students   A major in cognitive science prepares students for a wide variety of career opportunities. The options available depend on the particular program of study elected by the student and whether he or she pursues advanced degrees in either cognitive science or one of its related disciplines. The major provides a strong background for entry into any business setting in which computer literacy and a knowledge of human information processing capacities is of concern. These applications span the range from the automation of computerized expert systems to the design of effective human/computer interfaces.

Requirements for Major   Thirty credits are required for the major in cognitive science.

Prerequisites: (1) Prospective majors must have completed and obtained grades of C+ or better in two cognitive science designated courses from two different core areas: cognitive psychology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, and philosophy. A list of cognitive science designated courses follows. (2) Prospective majors must have a grade point average of 2.0 or better for all cognitive science courses completed at the University.

Required courses: (1) MATH 131 (Calculus I), four credits. (2) At least one cognitive science designated course in each of the five core areas. (3) At lease two courses at the 400 level or above in one of the four core areas, excluding directed readings, research, or internship courses. Selected courses in linguistics and philosophy define a single core area for advanced concentration. Courses counted in the 30 credits cannot be taken on a credit/no credit basis. Students are dropped from the major if they fall below a cumulative GPA of 2.0 for all cognitive science designated courses.

Additional Information   For more information, contact Dennis Proffitt, Director, Cognitive Science Program, 102 Gilmer Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903; (804) 924-0655.

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