What is Cognitive Science?

Cognitive Science at UCSD is more than a department and an academic program; it is a thriving community with over 60 faculty across the campus, uniting scholars in many different disciplines. This broader community gives cognitive science at UCSD an unusual scope and depth. Moreover, this community is not simply a passive resource; it is actively engaged in substantive interaction and has a major presence on the campus. We believe the combination is unique.

The department emphasizes three main areas of study:

Cognitive Science Triad

  • Brain - the understanding of neurobiological processes and phenomena
  • Behavior - the experimental methods and findings from the study of psychology, language, and the sociocultural environment
  • Computation - the powers and limits of various representations, coupled with studies of computational mechanisms

The study of cognition takes place within the controlled situations of the laboratory and the natural situations of the everyday world, as well as through modeling and simulation studies of these situations. The unit under study ranges from the individual neuron, to neural systems, to the individual person, to social groups in which language, social organization, and culture play important roles. 

The underlying philosophy of the department challenges faculty and students to be knowledgeable in and sympathetic to a wide variety of fields and techniques. For example, required topics for both undergraduates and graduates include courses in behavior, computation, and the neurobiological basis of cognition.