What is Cognitive Science?

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of the mind and the nature of intelligence. Cognitive scientists come from a wide range of backgrounds that includes mathematics, psychology, neuro-science and computer science. Regardless of the cognitive science field, all cognitive scientists share the common goals of better understanding the secrets of the human mind.

Career Profile

A cognitive research scientist works with other researchers to meet the program goals and project objectives of their organization. These research scientists are independent investigators and consultants who help clinicians gather data, conduct experiments and review results. Senior cognitive research scientists may be asked to provide direction to managers and senior leadership while also leading a multidisciplinary team of professionals. They are expected to provide supervision to the team and research methodology expertise.

Cognitive research scientists establish and maintain academic collaborations with other organizations and manage student volunteers. They maintain credibility by publishing in peer-reviewed journals and making presentations in professional meetings. In order to qualify for a similar position, candidates will need to have competency in research design, data analysis and computational statistics. They usually have at least five years’ experience in managing research projects and teams. A doctoral degree in a social, health or medical science is required.

Bachelor vs. Master’s Degree

Depending on the position, those who want to work in the field of cognitive-based science will need to have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in cognitive-based science will provide students with the basic knowledge needed to succeed in their chosen field. These programs will prepare students to apply to a variety of graduate and professional programs. Those who want to study language may go on to study speech pathology, but those who want to learn computational logic and programming may enter the field of robotics and artificial intelligence.

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A general bachelor’s degree in cognitive-based science will prepare students for pre-law, pre-medicine, and pre-management students. This is because these degrees allow students to gain a broad array of skills and a substantial knowledge base. Those who want to become a more competitive candidate for advanced positions will need a masters or doctoral degree. Most management, industrial research and college-level academic research and teaching positions require a master’s degree.

What Do Cognitive Scientists Learn in College?

Most degree programs will provide specialized training in popular concentrations like the brain, which provides an enhanced understanding of neurobiological processes, or behavior, which focuses on the experimental methods used to collect psychology findings. Students may also focus on psycho-linguistics, the sociocultural environment or studies of computational mechanisms. All programs will introduce students to the major facts and theories about human cognition, which includes engineering concepts, and cognitive neuroscience, which provides students with background knowledge of the brain’s processes.

Students will learn about common psychological phenomena like sensation, thought, perception, language, consciousness and voluntary action. Most classes use a cross-disciplinary approach, so students study data and theories from the fields of brain imaging, behavioral neuroscience, clinical and experimental neuropsychology and neuro-electric and neuro-magnetic brain science. Students also take classes in the evolution of human cognition, cultural perspectives on brain functioning and computational cognition.

Those who work in the field of cognitive science may find employment in the fields of education, telecommunications, medical analysis, information processing, data management, human-computer interaction, human performance testing and human factors engineering.