Career Summary

Cognitive scientists seek to understand and explain the inner workings of human mind, its intelligent functions, behavioral mechanisms, and the neurobiological organization responsible for orchestrating and executing mental activities of the brain. A relatively new field, cognitive science emerged in the mid-1950s when researchers from different disciplines applying diverse methodologies and approaches in their study of mind and intelligence introduced initial intellectual theories concerning cognitive performance. In the mid-70s, the Cognitive Science Society was founded and the journal Cognitive Science was launched. Since then, cognitive science has evolved into a mainstream discipline that spans and bridges diverse areas of study comprised of psychology, philosophy, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology. Cognitive theorists contend that mental representations of the mind are virtually analogous to computer data structures and that mental operations are comparable to computational procedures. The notion that human thinking is best understood in the context of representation and computation serves as a common ground for exploring intelligent systems, both inherent and artificial. The Cognitive Science major focuses on three key areas of study: the brain - the neurobiological processes associated with cognitive phenomena such as language recognition, knowledge acquisition, information processing, etc.; behavior - cognitive activities and responses related to general truths about human communication, socio-cultural interaction, stimuli, and developmental patterns; computation - the framework of computational systems that mimic functional aspects of human perceptual, cognitive, and neural processes. Although each discipline draws on its own methodology as it tackles the matter at hand from different perspectives, the interdisciplinary convergence based on a common goal and shared interest has resulted in a unifying approach and fruitful collaboration. While cognitive psychologists are frequently involved in theorizing and computational modeling, the greater part of their time is devoted to conducting experiments with human participants under controlled conditions. They gather empirical evidence by examining mental activities transpiring in their study subjects to determine how people form certain views and ideas, how fast they process mental images, or the effectiveness with which humans solve problems applying analogies. The role of AI (Artificial Intelligence) experts revolve around developing and testing mathematical and computational models simulating recognized patterns and elements of human cognitive experiences. Neuroscientists target brain-behavior relationships by studying the neurological anatomy, physiological processes, molecular mechanisms, and neural activity in human brain, its specific regions that mediate various mental tasks like word and mental imagery interpretation. Neuroscientists incorporate clinical, theoretical, and experimental techniques and data in their analyses of neural sources of higher cognitive functions which include perception, learning and memory, problem solving, and reasoning. Since language is the main portal of communication between humans and the means by which they articulate ideas, express feelings, and exchange information, linguists provide important answers to questions related to human intelligence and the extent to which the nature of language is affected by cognitive properties of the mind and brain. Linguists supply theoretical and experimental data obtained through analyses of grammatical rules that form the fundamental structure of languages, semantic systems and networks as well as the role of communication, all from the standpoint of mental processes involved in language production, comprehension, acquisition, and cognition. The link between cultural environment and intellectual development has long been a subject of discussion and interest. Cognitive anthropologists help expand our understanding of human thinking and forms of interaction, especially in connection with language use, by shedding light on intellectual, rational, and emotional attributes of various cultural environments that underlie and motivate human behavior. Anthropologists conduct field studies, which often entail living in indigenous ethnic settings for extended periods of time, to assure accurate collection and interpretation of data. Philosophers, whose main concern is ideas and their structures with regard to abstract and real phenomena, logic, as well as the mind and body connection, contribute on multiple levels into the unraveling of the mystery of human mind and conscious experience. 

Program Description

Most cognitive science positions require a Master's or Ph.D. degree. Graduate programs lead to specialization in weather Cognitive Science or any other related discipline. Education in cognitive science presents flexible career alternatives. Occupational opportunities exist in research, consulting, education, social services, business, medicine, criminal justice system, advertising/marketing/public relations firms, and computer/biotech industries. A substantial amount of research dollars has been allocated for the interdisciplinary projects in cognitive science, many of which account for medical breakthroughs in finding progressive treatments for learning disability, nerve or brain disorders, speech & language impairments, etc.

Students interested in pursuing a Bachelor's degree should consult with an academic and/or transfer counselor to discuss university transfer requirements

Key Skills and Characteristics

  • Well-developed analytical, critical thinking, investigative, and argumentative ability.
  • High interest in learning new things and generating novel ideas.
  • Enjoy conducting research, organizing and interpreting data.
  • Work well on multidisciplinary project teams.
  • Advanced communication/presentation skills.
  • Numerical computation and attention to detail.
  • Strong computer background.

Related Career Titles

Psychiatrist * Psychologist * Educator * Clinician * Computer Scientist * Neurologist * Criminologist * Advertising Executive * Foreign Affairs Agent * Human Resource Director * Intelligence Agent * Public Relations Specialist * Marketing Researcher * Medical Researcher * Mental Health Counselor * Technical Writer

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Last updated: 10/26/2009 4:16:57 PM