Cognitive Science

[For additional information on Cognitive Science at UC Merced please visit the Cognitive Science Website]

OverviewCognitive science research

Cognitive Science is the interdisciplinary study of human thought and behavior. It combines methods, theories, and applications from many disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, and biology.

The Cognitive Science majors, B.A. and B.S., provide a broad knowledge of cognitive science, including language and communication, reasoning, memory, categorization, cognitive modeling, perception and action, philosophical foundations, artificial intelligence, cognitive engineering, and cognitive science applications for the business setting.

A degree in Cognitive Science provides in-depth training in research methods, data analysis, modeling, and lab-based research, and it provides excellent training for jobs in high-tech companies. It is ideal for students who want to pursue graduate work in cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, computer science and engineering, information sciences and information management, communications, medicine, business, management, law, and education.

Students can work with cognitive science faculty to tailor their own program of study to emphasize one or two specific areas within cognitive science. Example specializations include cognitive neuroscience, cognitive linguistics, computational modeling, decision sciences, and philosophy of cognitive science.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon graduation, students who major and minor in Cognitive Science will be able to:

  1. Explain and apply knowledge of landmark findings and theories in cognitive science.
  2. Design, interpret, and evaluate simple behavioral and neuroscientific experiments.
  3. Interpret and appreciate formal and computational approaches in cognitive science.
  4. Argue for or against theoretical positions in cognitive science.
  5. Use a cognitive science education outside of the undergraduate classroom, particularly in the service of careers.

Academic Success

Each year, our program assesses the classroom learning experiences of students to ensure that students are building the necessary skills and knowledge-base in this discipline. The assessments allow our program to engage in continued creative and visionary curriculum and instruction approaches that ensure students are exposed to rigorous undergraduate training. Every discipline has a unique assessment schema and set of student performance benchmarks, reflecting the priorities of the discipline.

  • In the 2011-2012 academic year, we piloted a sampling from the student work of 6 graduating seniors and 8 juniors from an upper division course in the major. Student sample work was evaluated using a rubric outlining the knowledge and skills to argue for or against theoretical positions in cognitive sciences (PLO4, listed above).
  • 93% (13/14) of the papers were judged to have achieved an overall score of “Moderate Proficiency” or better, with 57% (8/14) papers reaching “High Proficiency.”
  • In a self-reporting survey designed by COGS and administered by SATAL, 70% (12/17) of junior and senior respondents reported that they started college with little or no knowledge of theoretical positions in Cognitive Science and 59% (10/17) reported that they are now “well versed” or better.
  • In this same survey, students also indicated that in order to perform better on PLO4 they could benefit from increased study time outside of class and attending office hours more frequently.

The conclusions that we draw inform our learning support strategies and assessment protocols. First, a minority of students need more learning support around theoretical positions in cognitive science to reach our high expectations. Second, the scoring rubric and survey worked well to collect the information we sought and we will implement the protocols on a larger scale in the next round of assessment.

Alumni Success

Student graduates from our program are currently engaging in graduate studies and careers. A few of these after-college endeavors are listed below.

  • Congratulations to Zach Tosi, who was admitted to an IGERT PhD Fellowship Program in Cognitive Science at Indiana University for Fall 2012.

Graduate School

Student graduates from COGS are studying at the University of California Berkeley, University of California Davis, University of San Francisco, and Notre Dame de Namur University.


Student graduates from COGS are working in a variety of professional settings including as university administrators in development and information technology, and as managers in companies that contribute to California’s infrastructure.