Cognitive Science is the study of mind. It differs from Psychology in that
it focuses on the computations that enable to brain to work. This computational
view is a hallmark of cognitive science. It also means that unlike neuroscience,
Cognitive Science is less concerned about the brain structures - its genetics and
its evolutionary history.
In order to do its work, the brain also creates some internal representations for
structures in the world and inside us; the nature of these representations are some
of the key aspects that one attempts to study in cognitive science. A large part of
our actions, especially for things we are good at, are based on representations that
are subconscious, so we can't describe what it is that we are doing. This is what
makes cognitive science challenging.
In this course, we shall be looking at a broad range of psychological data and
performing some experiments (on ourselves as well) to try to study the operations
of the mind. We shall be looking at some of the neural mechanisms that may be underlying
our performance. Also, we shall be seeking to simulate some of these capabilities on
computational systems to understand the internal mechanics of these systems. We shall
also consider questions of how an infant learns, and particularly, issues of modelling meaning
in language. Finally, we shall consider some philosophical
about what it means to represent something.
Though there is no textbook, a set of readings is suggested below. Also, it may help you to
read one of these two exciting books that have become best sellers in recent years:
Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011). Almost everything we do, we do effortlessly. This is "thinking fast".
As we practice, things that we needed to "think slow" on, gradually become faster.
Kahneman is one of the founders of the field of behavioural economics, for which he won the Nobel prize in 2002.
Richard K. Morgan : Altered Carbon (2003). Science fiction, hard boiled thriller. What would a world be where
you can "download" your brain and "re-sleeve" your body?
There are no special pre-requisites. There will be some computational homeworks, but these should be possible for anyone in IIT.
Unlike previous years, where we looked at one sub-discipline at a time (psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, linguistics,
etc.), this year we will be looking across functionalities. In particular, we will be taking a developmental viewpoint -
i.e. how does a baby learn to do something. So the topics we will be looking at are:
- Space/Time concepts
- Social cognition
There will be a project which may involve any of the above areas. I expect
some people to conduct experiments on actual users, or you may work on
computational simulations, or propose theoretical models. merely a survey of
literature will not comprise a project.
You may find it interesting to look at some of the older projects
from the last year projects page
- Exams and quizzes: 40%
- Homework: 10-20%
- Quizzes: 10%
- Project: 35-45%
- Wilson, Robert A., & Keil, Frank C. (eds.),
The MIT Encyclopedia
of the Cognitive Sciences (MITECS), MIT Press, 2001 [Primary text]
(An excellent text, with lots of top notch essays covering
the many of the topics you may wish to explore in the latter parts of the
course. Great for browsing as well...)
Bowerman, Melissa and Stephen C. Levinson, Language Acquisition and Conceptual Development, Cambridge University Press 2001
(A pathbreaking collection of essays starting with infants in the
first year (they learn abstract concepts like number of
animacy); and how these eventually map into structures in language)
- Evans, Vyvyan and Melanie Green; Cognitive linguistics: an introduction,
In addition, we may refer to some of the following works.
Conceptual Spaces: The Geometry of Thought, MIT Press, 2000, 317 pages
(Concepts may be characterized as regions in some
multi-dimensional space. Do these have to be convex?)
- Mandler, Jean, Foundations of Mind: Origins of conceptual thought , Oxford University Press, 2004 ,
(A fascinating study of cognitive processes in infancy. I
consider this work as one
of my most influential books from the last ten years.)
Margolis, E., and S. Laurence, ed., Concepts: Core Readings, MIT Press,
(Starting with plato and wittgenstein, go on to prototype
theory and probabilistic models. Does a concept have to be conscious?)
Sternberg, Robert J., Cognitive Psychology, 4th ed., Cengage Learning India, 2008
And of course, there is the wide big world of articles from
relevant journals and other research publications. In particular, we will
be looking at papers from CogSci 2011 for projects / topics etc.