What is Cognitive Science?

Cognitive science is the study of how our mind functions, works and behaves. As a scientific field of study, it encompasses interdisciplinary research from various existing disciplines such as computer science, neuroscience, philosophy, artificial intelligence, linguistics, psychology, and anthropology. Cognitive Science researchers study how the brain decides or performs a task. Cognitive science seeks to understand behavior and intelligence, which helps humans in working out day-to-day activities, developing educational programs, or building smarter devices.

Cognitive Science: A Brief History

Since the beginning of time, humans have tried to understand their minds. Some of the earliest philosophers and writers spoke of the wonder of thought and the foolishness and wisdom that humankind is capable of, often in equal measure. One of the early Greek philosophers, Aristotle, spoke of the brain and its many functions, particularly human knowledge.

It was not until the 1800s, however, that the science of psychology began to develop, particularly the field of experimental psychology. At this time, the theory of behaviorism was popular among scientists. It’s an idea that certain behaviors in humans were programmed, and they occur as a biological reaction to stimuli. In 1879, Wilhelm Wundt founded his psychology laboratory. A short while later, Sigmund Freud carried out a series of case studies to support his theories and ideas.

In the 1950s, the Cognitive Revolution began when several researchers from psychology, computer science, neuroscience, linguistics, and related fields started to develop mind-based theories based on computational procedures and complex representations (Broadbent, Chomsky, Miller, Newell, Shaw, Simon). In the 1960s, cognitive psychology became predominant (Tulving, Sperling), and since the first major institutions in 1970s, more than sixty universities in North America and Europe have started cognitive science programs.

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