Constituent Disciplines of Cognitive Science

Constituent Disciplines of Cognitive Science

What is cognitive science?

Cognitive Science is an interdisciplinary field devoted to understanding cognitive processes of the mind. Cognitive Science draws on aspects of several disciplines including: Psychology, Computer Science, Neuroscience, Anthropology, Linguistics, and Philosophy.

Major Goals:

  1. Understand how the mind works
  2. Create a unified and integrated account of cognition through the use of all sub-disciplines.

Disciplines that comprise cognitive science:Constituent Disciplines of Cognitive Science

 Psychology– the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior. Psychology focuses on studying the mental characteristics or attitude of people or groups.

Philosophy– the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline. Philosophy focuses on the theoretical basis of a particular branch of knowledge or experience.

Anthropology– the study of humankind. Anthropology is a comparative study of human societies and cultures and their development.

Neuroscience– the study of the structure and function of the brain and nervous system.

Linguistics– the study of language and its structure. Linguistics focuses on aspects of language such as morphology, syntax, phonetics, and semantics.

Computer Science– the study of the principles and uses of the computer.

Development of Cognitive Science due to the development of the separate disciplines:

Linguistics– Chomsky and natural language, Chomsky suggested that language was organized based on a finite set of rules (an algorithm). For this reason, language must be more advance than a conditioned response to the environment (what behaviorist thought).

Computer Science/LinguisticsSHRDLU and chatter boxes, Artificial Intelligence provides a means by which we can expand our knowledge of the mind because if we can create a machine that performs cognitive processes then we must be able to understand those processes better within our own mind. 

Psychology– A major aspect of psychology that impacted cognitive science is moving away from behaviorism (the idea that all behavior can be explained by conditioned responses to stimuli). Some other advances in psychology that impacted cognitive science are the latent learning studies (rats in a maze were encoding information about their environment even when they were not being rewarded), place learning (rats in a maze encode the location of a reward, not the movements to get to the reward), top-down processes, and  imagistic encoding (not all information is encoded digitally, some information is represented in the mind as an image). All of these developments helped to shape the values and beliefs held by cognitive scientists.

Computer science– The Turing Machine is (a hypothetical machine that would report is a problem was solvable or not, it ran on algorithms) There is theoretically a Universal Turing machine that works for all Turing machines. Turning machine contributed to cognitive science because it represented the first model of the modern computer/mind. The algorithmic  function  in computers aids in further understanding of how some processes may occur in the brain. Some tasks are thought to use algorithms  (a process that has a finite number of steps, can be unambiguously followed, and will always give an output for a given input) and some use hierarchical processes.

Neuroscience– Some techniques in neuroscience used to develop cognitive science are BOLD signal/LFP (shows the integration of multiple levels of organization and measurement, larger brain area studied with the BOLD signal, which measures brain function, individual neurons studied using LFP, which measures inputs to neurons). Some other techniques are fMRI, PET, EEG, and MEG.

Milestones and Breakthroughs:

  1. Cheater Detection Module- Deontic Reasoning- Evolutionary Strategies
  3. Local integration of BOLD contrast (fMRI) and LFP (individual neuron inputs)
  4. PSSH
  6. Artificial Neural Networks
  7. Baron-Cohen Mind-reading Model (ToMM and TESS)

Cognitive Science in our Every day lives:

Human Senses: Demonstrates Marr’s tri-level hypothesis by taking input from the environment and converting it into sights and sounds.

Siri: This voice-activated response system is an advancement of the SHRDLU. It can utilize sarcasm in her responses, but she cannot always detect sarcasm in the input. This is a great illustration of artificial intelligence, but there are still many advances to make in order to get a system to fully understand all that is involved in human language.


Conversation: Interpreting input and output at a subconscious level.  An example of this is the cocktail party effect. There is a tendency to pick up on certain stimuli (i.e your name) even when you are not intending to.


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