COGS Q101 — Introduction to Cognitive Science
— Fall 2016
Meeting times and locations: Student Building 150 Tu-Th 1-2:15; F discussion sections as enrolled
- Colin Allen, Professor,
Program in Cognitive Science and Dept. of History & Philosophy of Science Medicine
- Offices BH654 and EG804. Office hours Tu 2:15-4:00 and by appt.
- Asst. Instructor
- Felipe Muñoz, PhD Student, Program in Cognitive Science and Program in Neuroscience
- Office hours: Th 12-12:45 at Angles (Art Museum Cafe); Fr 9-10 (PY104); and by appt.
Cognitive Science is the study of how minds work. Cognitive
scientists come together from many different research areas to engage
in an interdisciplinary attack on the nature of intelligence, memory,
attention, imagery, language, reasoning, decision making and
perception. One way to see why studying mind is a difficult problem
is to consider that in virtually every other discipline we use our
minds to study something else. In cognitive science the mind is
studying itself; we have to use our own thought processes to study
those processes. Because this is such a difficult endeavor, we come at
the problem from multiple directions, which is why cognitive science
spans psychology, neuroscience, computer science, logic, philosophy,
mathematics, sociology, anthropology, behavioral economics, robotics,
linguistics, and animal learning (to mention just a few of the areas
involved). This course will provide you with an overview of the tools
and theories that bring these different areas together and provides a
common framework for sharing data across disciplines. You will be
introduced to some important and some intriguing results obtained so
far, and begin to understand how cognitive scientists discover the
laws, models, and mechanisms that allow them to explain how complex
minds produce complex behavior.
By the end of the course, you should have gained
important new insights into what you are and how you work!
This course satisfies a University General Education requirement in
Natural & Mathematical Sciences. The expected learning outcomes
of the course include:
- an understanding of the broad range of methods for scientific
inquiry used by cognitive scientists, and the role of cognitive
science in developing the technologies behind artificial
intelligence and robotics, and of the foundational concepts those
technologies provide back to cognitive science;
- an understanding of how cognitive scientists use mathematical and
computational models to integrate findings from psychology,
linguistics, and neuroscience, how the models relate cognitive
information processing to the hardware and "wetware" of artificial
machines and biological brains, and how the fact that brains are
embodied in organisms that are embedded in social and physical
environments is important for understanding the evolution and
development of complex cognition;
- the ability to interpret experimental data, and to think critically
about the ways in which scientific results and their philosophical
and practical implications are presented in both academic journals
and in news media for the general public.
Along the way, in addition to learning some of the theories,
methods, and results in cognitive science (and some quirks of human
cognition!), you will also get a sampling of some of the specific
research going on in our very own
world-class Cognitive Science
Program at IU, and you will be introduced to the intellectual
and historical context which makes the IU-Cog-Sci view of the world
Because every introductory cognitive science textbook tends to be
biased towards its author's home discipline, I prefer to use a set of
readings drawn from many different sources. These will be made
available to you through the
course Canvas site
and the links in the schedule below.
Many of the readings come from the primary research literature in
cognitive science. This is a good thing, since they will help to
capture the vitality and excitement of scientific discovery. (Some of
this work hasn't yet filtered into textbooks.) These readings may also
be challenging, and they will often use terms and refer to
ideas with which you are unfamiliar. Don’t be discouraged by this!
Though the readings have been chosen to be accessible, we don’t expect
you to fully understand everything in them. That is why the readings
come with instructors whose job it is to help you understand the
difficult bits. You can help us help you by diligently doing the
readings (see also the grading basis) and coming to class ready
to ask questions.
Overall, we think you’ll benefit more by reading the primary
literature in this way than by reading the watered-down and less
exciting secondary literature, although some home-grown secondary
material is included to help provide background.
This is not grade school, so attendance will not be officially
enforced. However, some materials collected from classroom activities
will be used to track your attendance, and because there is no text
book and no official lecture notes, you will need to come to class to
learn the material. You cannot expect to do well without coming to
class. In all cases of absence, excused or unexcused, it is your
responsibility to get missed notes and information from a classmate.
Examinations will not be limited only to material from the readings,
but will also cover concepts discussed in the classroom at both
the main lectures and discussion sections.
A note about presentation slides: I will sometimes use
presentation slides for class, sometimes not — some material
lends it better to more structured presentation, some lends itself
to a more free-flowing Q&A driven classroom style. When I do use
slides, they will be made available
through Canvas after class, but they will not
reflect the full content of the lecture that day. So you may use
them for later study, but they are not a substitute for
- You may request to make up for missed exams or other assignments
only for University-recognized officially excused absences:
- • For predictable absences due to competitive events,
required activities in other classes, etc., documentation must be
provided at least two weeks prior to the absence.
- • For genuine emergencies, illnesses, or deaths in the family,
written documentation must be provided when you return to
- • Accommodation for religious observances will be handled
according to the official
policy. (Note that the form
must be submitted by the student by the end of the second week
of the semester.)
A load of 12 credit hours is officially defined as full time, but
you are expected to maintain a 15 hr schedule each semester for a
4-year degree plan. A full time work week is 40 hrs, which averages to
just under 3 hrs per week per credit. (If you take an overload, then
it is your responsibility to do the overtime!)
For a 3-credit course, 150 minutes are spent in the classroom, which
means typically two to three times that much should be spent outside studying and
carrying out course assignments. Individual study effectiveness
varies, and you may need (or hopefully want!) to do more than the
minimum to do well in the course. And, of course, the amount of
reward you get out of your education is a function of how much effort
you put in.
For this course you should estimate about 40% of your outside of classroom
time will be devoted to the assigned readings, 20% to independent
reading and research, and 40% to carrying out assignments or studying
for tests (this last category will have the highest variation from
week to week).
IU offers excellent help with academic skill development through
courses for credit and free workshops provided by the Student Academic
Center. Whether you are struggling with specific deadlines, or
simply wanting to improve your general skills, the Center has
something to offer.
For those of you new to IU (and even for some that aren't) this guide to making the
transition to College from SMU will help you understand my
expectations. Regardless of where you are in your College experience,
you should be interested in this NY
Times article on the cognitive science of learning.
- (20%) Responses to Reading
To get the most out of this course, it is essential that you carefully
and critically study the readings associated with each lecture.
The main readings are accompanied by overview documents that are
intended to help you with some of the concepts and terminology you
will encounter in the main reading.
These overviews are not substitutes for the main reading -- they
do not attempt to summarize the main readings, and in fact they are
designed to be quite generic so that they would help you to read any
article in the same sub-area of cognitive science.
To encourage you to carefully and critically study the readings, and
to give the instructor feedback as to what you thought of the
supplementary material, you will be asked to provide comments on the
readings for each class.
You will be required to submit these comments
via Canvas no later than noon on the day of the class
in which that reading will be discussed.
These should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete after you have
read the material.
The questions due for each class will be assigned at the end of the
We will use these comments to gauge your reactions to (and
understanding of) the ideas we’ll discuss, and will occasionally use
part of the classroom time to respond to some of the issues you raise
in these comments, as well as working them into the weekly discussion
Note that a significant portion of your grade (20%) will be based on
simply completing these assignments, and that late submissions will
not be counted for any reason except documented medical emergencies.
These will be graded on a pass/fail (1/0) basis and for full credit
you need to have 20 passes from the 23 opportunities during the
semester (i.e. you can omit 3).
- (45%) Two Exams
Half of your course grade will be determined by two examinations. The
first exam will be on Thursday, October 13 and will cover material
from August 23 through October 7.
The second exam will be held according to
schedule,on Thursday, December 15, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30
p.m. and will cover material from the entire course, but with
more questions about the second half.
The exam on which you do the best will count for 25% of your
grade; the other will count for 20%.
Each exam will consist of some multiple choice questions and a writing
Make-up exams will be given only in exceptional circumstances with a
full university excused absence; the make up exam will also be
different in content and possibly format from the original exam. No
early exams will be given, so make your travel plans accordingly.
To do well on these exams, you’ll need to attend the lectures and
discussion sections. Readings and lectures will rarely overlap by more
than about a quarter, but you will be examined on either.
- (10%) Questions on PeerWise We will be
using PeerWise as a place for you to create, share and evaluate
assessment questions with your classmates. Start by visiting PeerWise
here: peerwise.cs.auckland.ac.nz. You will need to
create an account (if you haven't used it before) and then log in and
then select "Join course" from the Home menu. To access our course,
"COGS Q101 Fall 2016", you will need to enter two pieces of
More details on how you will be using this tool will be given in
- Course ID = 13698
- Identifier = Please enter your IU username (the part before "@" in
your IU email address) for this course. (Note that your Identifier for
the course is not necessarily the same as the PeerWise username you
created, unless, of course, you made it so.)
- (25%) Short Paper You will write one
short (3-5 page) paper for this course, on an assigned topic which
is discussed further below in this syllabus.
On or before Friday Nov 11 you must submit a
After the proposal is approved, the paper is due by Friday,
- (+5%) Class participation Some of the activities during
main lecture and discussion sections will entail you turning in a
piece of paper or index card. These will be aggregated during the
semester and assessed at the end of the semester according to your
engagement with the classroom activities.
Note: Readings and topics are only definite 3 weeks before the date.
All readings will be
made available via Canvas (login required).
|Date||Topic||Readings / Assignments|
|Tu Aug 23||Course introduction||
Suggested reading: Transition to College (SMU)
|Th Aug 25||What is Cognitive Science? ||
Overview doc 01|
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on cognitive science
Optional: Wikipedia article on cognitive science
|Fr Aug 26||discussion sections||
|Tu Aug 30||Getting Inside the Black Box||
Overview doc 02|
Shepard & Metzler 1971 Mental Rotation of Three-Dimensional Objects
|Th Sep 01||Deeper Inside the black box||
Overview doc 03|
Cohen, Kosslyn, et al. 1996 Changes in Cortical Activity During Mental Rotation
|Fr Sep 02||discussion sections||
|Tu Sep 06||Cognition & Learning||
Overview doc 04|
Roediger & Karpicke 2006 Test-Enhanced Learning: Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention
|Th Sep 08||Cognition & Learning||
Reread Roediger & Karpicke 2006|
+ NY Times piece on cognitive science of studying
|Fr Sep 09||discussion sections||
|Tu Sep 13||Stereotype Threat||
Overview doc 05|
Rydell, Shiffrin et al. 2010 Stereotype Threat Prevents Perceptual Learning : read introduction and experiment 1
|Th Sep 15||Stereotype Threat cont'd||
continue reading Rydell, Shiffrin et al. 2010 : experiments 2 and 3 and final discussion/conclusion
|Fr Sep 16||discussion sections||
|Tu Sep 20||Heuristics & Rationality||
Tversky & Kahneman 1974 Judgments under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases
|Th Sep 22||Energy consumption perceptions||
Attari et al. 2010 Public perceptions of energy consumption and savings
|Fr Sep 23||discussion sections||
|Tu Sep 27||EEG||
Carrick, Thompson et al. It's all in the eyes: neural responses to socially significant gaze shifts
|Th Sep 29||fMRI||
Stout & Chaminade 2012 Stone tools, language and the brain in human evolution
|Fr Sep 30||discussion sections||
|Th Oct 04||Massive modularity?||
Cosmides & Tooby 1997 Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer
|Th Oct 06||Ecological Rationality||
Gigerenzer & Todd 2007 Environments that Make Us Smart: Ecological Rationality
|Fr Oct 07||NO DISCUSSION SECTIONS||Fall break|
|Tu Oct 11||MIDTERM REVIEW||study guide will be provided|
|Th Oct 13||++MIDTERM EXAM|
|Fr Oct 14||discussion sections||
|Tu Oct 18||
Ferrucci et al. 2010 Building Watson: An Overview of the DeepQA Project
NY Times Feb 2011 Computer Wins on ‘Jeopardy!’: Trivial, It’s Not
|Th Oct 20||Turing Dreams: Watson and AlphaGo||
Google Research Blog 2016 AlphaGo: Mastering the ancient game of Go with Machine Learning
Guardian Newspaper March 2016 Google says machine learning is the future. So I tried it myself.
|Fr Oct 21||discussion sections||
|Tu Oct 25||Computation: real thought, or just a simulation?||
Searle 1990 Is the Brain's Mind a Computer Program?
Churchland & Churchland 1990 Could a Machine Think?
|Th Oct 27||Embodied cognition||
Smith & Gasser 2005 The Development of Embodied Cognition: Six Lessons from Babies
|Fr Oct 28||discussion sections||
|Tu Nov 01||Throw rock, catch dinner?||
Zhu & Bingham 2011
|Th Nov 03||Language and Rules||
Hauser, Chomsky & Fitch 2002 The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?
|Fr Nov 04||discussion sections||
|Tu Nov 08||Language in Real Time||
Colapinto / New Yorker 2007 The Interpreter: Has a remote Amazonian tribe upended our understanding of language?
|Th Nov 10||Language & Number||
Frank, Everett et al. 2008 Number as a cognitive technology: Evidence from Pirahã language and cognition
|Fr Nov 11||discussion sections||
++PAPER Proposals due 5 p.m.
|Tu Nov 15||Paper conferences||
|Th Nov 17||Paper conferences||
|Fr Nov 18||Paper conferences||
|Tu Nov 22||NO CLASS!||Thanksgiving break|
|Th Nov 24||NO CLASS!||Thanksgiving break|
|Fr Nov 25||NO CLASS!||Thanksgiving break|
|Tu Nov 29||Cognitive Diversity: Synaesthesia||
Brang, Edwards et al. 2008 Is the Sky 2?
|Th Dec 01||Cognitive Diversity: Weird People? ||
start Henrich, Heine & Norenzayan 2010 The Weirdest People in the World?
[Read sections 1-4 pages 1-14 for today]
|Fr Dec 02||discussion sections||
++PAPER due at midnight
|Tu Dec 06||More Weird||
continue with Henrich, Heine & Norenzayan 2010
[Read sections 5-7 pages 14-23 for today]|
|Th Dec 08||Final review||study guide will be provided|
|Fr Dec 09||discussion sections
|Th Dec 15||EXAM||++FINAL EXAMINATION> 12:30-2:30 p.m. Note time is EARLER than the usual class time.
- General description of the assignment: We define the
"internal (methodological) validity" of a scientific study in terms of how well it was
designed to test the researcher's hypothesis; i.e., did it use
appropriate methods and correct logical and statistical analysis? We
define the "external (ecological) validity" of a scientific study
as its relationship to the world outside the lab; i.e., both (a) do
the study findings seem important "in the real world"?, and (b) did
the stimuli or tasks used in the study adequately represent conditions
outside the laboratory; e.g., if studying student learning, was the
task used in the experiment similar enough to what students encounter
in classrooms to make the findings generalizable to real
classrooms. In this short (3-5 page) paper, you’ll discuss the
internal/methodological and external/ecological validity of a part of
cognitive science, and compare an actual scientific report with its
presentation in the news media.
- Materials [Describe and provide copies or links for Paper proposal due Nov 11]:
Find recent press coverage from the past decade that mentions any
peer-reviewed cognitive science research. You should choose coverage
from a major newspaper or magazine -- e.g.:
The New York Times,
[You may pick an example covered in class, or find something else.
See a list
cognitive scientists in the news for locally-relevant stories.
You may also want to follow @sciammind or similar.]
- Full Paper Structure:
Write a short (3-5 page, double-spaced)
paper in which you:
(a) summarize, in your own words, the main point, methods, and
results of the research as reported in the original scientific article
(b) describe how this research was presented in one or more of the
journalistic treatments (did they report it accurately? did they use
language and concepts not in the original?) (journalistic accuracy);
(c) say whether the journalistic presentation and the scientific
presentation covered external/ecological validity of the research, and if so,
(d) give your own assessment of the external/ecological validity of this research (critical evaluation);
(e) discuss what you would say to someone who disagrees with your
assessment of the external/ecological validity of the study —
i.e., play ‘devil’s advocate’ to generate arguments for alternative
views to your own, and then try to counter them (self-critical
Statement for Students with Disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a Federal
anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights
protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this
legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed
a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of
their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an
accommodation, please contact IU Disability Services for Students.