140A Gilmer Hall
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400400
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400
Overview Cognitive science is the study of cognition–the structure, acquisition, and use of knowledge. Knowledge-based systems have the capabilities of encoding information, applying lawful transformations on these inputs, and modifying their processing logic in accordance with changes in both their inputs and outputs.
The scientific study of information processing systems has developed in a number of interrelated yet distinct disciplines, especially cognitive psychology, computer science, linguistics, and neuroscience. While these disciplines are all concerned with the processing of information, they each focus on somewhat different systems. Cognitive psychology is concerned with human information processing faculties. Computer science deals with modeling or automation of intelligent functions on digital hardware. Linguistics examines the particular cognitive faculty of language, sometimes studied from the perspective of its use by people, but often modeled without concern for human performance limitations. Finally, neuroscience seeks to explain how information processing functions are performed within the constraints of the neuroanatomical structure of biological systems.
Increasingly, these distinct disciplines are developing overlapping domains of inquiry. For example, the competencies a computer scientist wishes to model are often within the human repertoire of skills. Thus, the logic of these skills is understood to some degree by cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers of knowledge. Moreover, all of these disciplines can be seen to converge in their inquiry into the form and function of language.
Students A major in cognitive science prepares students for a wide variety of career opportunities. The options available depend on the particular program of study elected by the student and whether he or she pursues an advanced degree in cognitive science or one of its related disciplines. The major provides a strong background for entry into any business setting in which computer literacy and knowledge of human information processing capacities is of concern. These applications range from the automation of computerized expert systems to the design of effective human/computer interfaces.