Program in Cognitive Science
P.O. Box 400400
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4400
Phone: (434) 924-0655
Overview Cognitive science is the study of cognition'cognition
being the structure, acquisition, and use of knowledge. Knowledge-based
systems process information. That is, they 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 their own 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 all of the human information processing
faculties. Computer science deals with the 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
Increasingly, these distinct disciplines are developing overlapping
domains of inquiry. For example, often the competencies that a computer
scientist wishes to model are within the human repertoire of skills;
thus, their logic 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 advanced degrees in either
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 a knowledge of human information processing
capacities is of concern. These applications span the range from
the automation of computerized expert systems to the design of effective
Requirements for Major Thirty credits are required
for the major in cognitive science.
Prospective majors must complete, with grades of C+ or better,
two designated cognitive science courses from two different core
areas: cognitive psychology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience,
and philosophy (a list of designated courses follows). Prospective
majors must also have a GPA of 2.0 or better for all cognitive science
courses completed at the University.
Required courses: MATH 131 or 122 (students are strongly advised
to take MATH 131 instead of MATH 122); at least one designated cognitive
science course in each of the five core areas; at least two courses
at the 400 level or above in one of the five core areas, excluding
directed readings, research, or internship courses. Courses counted
in the 30 credits may not be taken on a credit/no credit basis.
Students are dropped from the major if they fall below a cumulative
GPA of 2.0 for all designated cognitive science courses.
Distinguished Majors Program in Cognitive Science
General Information Outstanding cognitive science
majors who have completed 18 credit hours towards their major and
who have a cumulative GPA of 3.4 or better may apply by the third
semester before graduating to the Distinguished Majors Program.
Students who are accepted will complete a thesis based on two semesters
of empirical or theoretical research. Upon successful completion
of the program, students will normally be recommended for a baccalaureate
award of Distinction, High Distinction or Highest Distinction.
Requirements Students applying to the DMP must
have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4 and have completed 18 credit
hours towards their Cognitive Science major by the end of the semester
in which they apply. In addition to the normal requirements for
the cognitive science major, they must register for two semesters
of supervised research (Cognitive Science 497 and 498). Based on
their independent research, students must complete a thesis or review
at least one month prior to graduation.
Additional Information For more information, contact
the director, Dennis Proffitt, 102 Gilmer Hall, Charlottesville,
VA 22903; (434) 924-0655; www.virginia.edu/~cogsci.