CogniFit's Science blog: What Is Cognitive Science?

What Is Cognitive Science?

Science is a very broad subject, containing many different disciplines within the subject. One of the disciplines that have recently come to be used is cognitive science.

But, what does this science do exactly? What research does a cognitive scientist do? This article will give you the basics of cognitive science.

Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary scientific study of the mind and its processes. The term was coined by Christopher Longuet-Higgins in a commentary on the Lighthill report in 1973. The journal Cognitive Science and the Cognitive Science Society would be founded in the same decade and by 1982, Vassar College would offer the first undergraduate degree in Cognitive Science.

There are two parts to understand, cognition and science. Cognition, or the mental processes, is studied to identify what it does and how it works. Some of the different processes of cognition are attention, solving problems, remembering, making decisions, and producing and understanding language.

That covers the cognitive part, now for the science part. Cognitive science consists of multiple research disciplines, including linguistics, education, artificial intelligence, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience. It covers a wide range of analysis. A cognitive scientist will examine low-level learning and decision mechanisms all the way up to high-level logic and planning.

It may seem like cognitive science covers a large field full of wide topics. It should be noted that cognitive scientists are not equally concerned with every topic that impacts the nature and operation of the mind or intelligence. For instance, social and cultural factors, emotion, evolutionary and comparative approaches are excluded.

Cognitive scientists tend to have functionalist views of the mind. Any system that performs the proper function for some mental state is considered to be in that mental state. Some versions of functionalism believe that animal species or advanced computer can have mental states.

Research for this science is highly interdisciplinary, using multiple areas of study, drawing on research methods from computer science, neuroscience, psychology, and systems theory. Research methods include: behavioral experiments, brain imaging, computational modeling, and neurobiological methods.

Cognitive science is a broad interdisciplinary topic that examines the mind and its processes. Far different fields including linguistics, anthropology, neuroscience and education are combined and studied to give us an accurate picture of how our brain and its processes work. It is a fascinating science and one I hope you continue to learn more about after reading this brief overview of the subject.