Program in Cognitive Science

Academic Unit

Program Information

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of how the mind works, drawing on research from psychology, philosophy, linguistics, neuroscience, and computer science. The interdisciplinary character of cognitive science is reflected in its reliance on many different levels of analysis of mental phenomena and its employment of a variety of methodologies appropriate to each level. The goal of cognitive science is to integrate the insights from multiple disciplines and modes of research into a unified scientific account of the mind and its place in nature. Research in cognitive science includes, but is not limited to, work on psychophysics, perception, linguistics and language processing, philosophy of mind and language, cognitive development, memory, reasoning, emotion, moral and social cognition, and judgment and decision making. One ambition of cognitive science is to understand just how mental abilities and processes are realized in the brain, and how such neural realizations can ground the conscious, deliberate activity of thought and decision. Another is to map out just how the human mind develops from childhood on, and thereby articulate the deep mechanisms of learning and cognitive development. A third ambition is to investigate just how far mental processes can be duplicated in complex computational structures that could be instantiated in machines.

Admission to the Program

The program is open to undergraduates concentrating in any department. Students should meet with the director or program manager, usually during sophomore year, to apply to the program and plan a course of study. Applicants will be accepted based on interest and a coherent, tentative academic plan, including independent study.

Program of Study

Students are required to take five courses in cognitive science, which in combination satisfy the following requirements:

1. Three courses at the 300-level or higher;

2. Courses taken in at least three different academic units (please note that this restriction applies only to a course's primary course listing, not to additional cross-listings);

3. Typically no more than one course with a primary course listing from the student's department of concentration, unless permission is obtained from the director;

4. At least one course that is not counted towards the student's departmental concentration;

5. At most, one course may be taken P/D/F.

Students are also required to complete a thesis or a semester of junior independent work that incorporates substantial elements of cognitive science. The work may be used to satisfy both the requirements of the program and the student's department of concentration.  Students who are unable to incorporate cognitive science into their departmental independent work should consult the director or program manager to discuss alternative means of satisfying this requirement. 

The Program in Cognitive Science sponsors a lunchtime talk series with speakers from the Princeton cognitive science community, as well as from outside Princeton.  Students are strongly encouraged to attend these talks.  If scheduling permits, certificate students who are completing independent work in cognitive science may volunteer to give a talk themselves, in consultation with the director.

Certificate of Proficiency

A student who fulfills the requirements of the program with satisfactory standing receives a certificate of proficiency in cognitive science upon graduation.

Cognitive Science and Related Courses
These courses will count towards the program requirements. Other cognitive science related courses, including graduate courses, may be counted toward certificate completion with the approval of the director.