MSc Cognition in Science and Society

An interdisciplinary programme, drawing on expertise from across the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Clockwork head in front of a crowd


This programme combines the scientific study of human cognition with the application of cognitive science to broader societal concerns. Students focus on core methodologies and theories of cognitive science, but also explore the synergy between cognitive science and its applications.

Programme content and structure

Full programme structure

This programme comprises two semesters of taught courses, followed by a dissertation.

Core courses include:

  • Cognition, Culture and Context;
  • Human Cognition: Science and Application to Society
  • Introduction to Statistics and Experimental Design
  • Pragmatics of Linguistic Communication
  • Psychological Research Skills
  • Univariate Statistics and Methodology using R
  • Transferring Knowledge to Society (semester 2)

These are supplemented by a range of optional courses drawn from the catalogue of the school of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences.

Learning outcomes and careers

Students will develop the skills to undertake their own research in cognitive science, and learn how to communicate about the results of scientific research and its relevance to society. The programme prepares students for careers in science writing and in applied research, as well as for research within academia.

Entry requirements

Students of Cognition in Science and Society have a UK 2:1 degree, or its international equivalent, typically in psychology, philosophy, linguistics, or computer science/informatics, or related disciplines with a focus on quantitative research. Applicants must also submit a writing sample to demonstrate abilities in academic writing.

Who is this programme for?

Ideally, incoming students have interests and background in one or more of the related Cognitive Science disciplines and can use the personal statement to convey how their training and goals aligns with the aims of the degree programme.

Why study cognition at Edinburgh?

  • Unique interdisciplinary approach to the study of cognition, building on the strengths and synergies between subject areas in the school of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences.
  • Focus on impact of cognitive science research beyond academia.
  • Flexible programme structure allows students to adapt course choices and dissertation topics to suit their own strengths and interests.

Teaching and assessment

Teaching takes place through a combination of lectures, tutorials, and small group seminars in semesters 1 and 2. This is complemented by dissertation research, which typically begins in winter and becomes the major focus after the end of the second semester. There is potential, where appropriate, for a student’s dissertation research to be linked to an extramural placement.

Coursework assessment is through a combination of oral presentations, essays, practical sessions, and exams, depending on course choices.

Facilities and resources

Students can avail themselves of the resources (including study space, libraries, and computer labs) available within the school of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences, as well as in the university more broadly.

Student support

In addition to the student support offered to all students in the school of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences, students in Cognition in Science and Society have the opportunity to arrange work placements related to their dissertation research.

Staff profiles

Rob Truswell
Rob Truswell is a Chancellor’s Fellow in Linguistics and English Language. He is interested in the architecture and evolution of linguistic cognition, and has published widely on syntax, semantics, language change, and comparative cognitive science. He is currently programme director for the MSc in Cognition in Science and Society.
Hannah Rohde
Hannah Rohde is a lecturer in Linguistics and English Language. She is interested in the way listeners uncover meaning in the face of ambiguity in what they hear. Her research focuses on how the pragmatic relationships that listeners infer to hold between sentences can influence how they interpret words within a sentence.
David Ward
Dave Ward is a lecturer in Philosophy, with particular interests in philosophy of mind. Dave is interested in working out the relationships between perception, agency, and understanding, and using both cognitive science and the history of philosophy to do this. Dave frequently contributes to Cognition in Science and Society course teaching, particularly the course Cognition, Culture and Context.
Robert Logie
Robert Logie is Professor in Psychology. His research and teaching interests lie in the cognition of human memory in the healthy, ageing, and damaged brain, focused on experimental behavioural studies of working memory. Prof. Logie regularly contributes to Cognition in Science and Society course teaching, particularly the course Transferring Knowledge to Society.

Find out more

Fees, funding and how to apply

Image credit

Source images: "Clockwork of mechanical Prim wrist watch", by Kozuch, CC-BY SA 3.0; "Crowd" by James Cridland, CC-BY 2.0: "Head anatomy side view" by Patrick J. Lynch, CC-BY 2.5.