Cognitive Science

For additional information on Cognitive Science at UC Merced please visit the Cognitive Science website

OverviewCognitive science research

Cognitive Science is the study of human thought and its relation to human activities, including the study of language, perception, memory and reasoning. The Cognitive Science minor increases students’ knowledge of the mind and how it is studied from various perspectives, and it helps them to acquire critical skills in scientific research and in formal areas such as computer science and mathematics. Students are encouraged to become involved with faculty research.

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; and 
  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 six graduating seniors and eight 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 percent (13/14) of the papers were judged to have achieved an overall score of “Moderate Proficiency” or better, with 57 percent (8/14) papers reaching “High Proficiency.”
  • In a self-reporting survey designed by COGS and administered by SATAL, 70 percent (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 percent (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 Ph.D. 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.


Last Updated: May 2016