Undergraduate study - 2018 entry

Subject area: Cognitive Science (Humanities)

Why choose Cognitive Science (Humanities) at the University of Edinburgh?

  • Edinburgh was one of the places in which Cognitive Science's constituent disciplines first came together in the 1960s. We have developed that tradition of research and teaching ever since. Edinburgh remains one of the most exciting places in the world to study the nature of mind and language.

  • Cognitive science can be studied as an MA or a BSc, depending on how interested you are in the mathematical and computational aspects of cognitive science. Both programmes offer you an in-depth knowledge of philosophy, psychology and linguistics.

  • You will be part of a small but exciting group of like-minded students, while being part of a larger community of students in each of the component subject areas.

Study abroad

Cognitive science allows you to explore all the fascinating aspects of cognition in a highly flexible and engaging way. It has unified my interests across disciplines in a way no other degree could.

Simka Senyak MA (Hons) Cognitive Science Graduate
Simka Senyak MA (Hons) Cognitive Science Graduate

Philosophers and scientists have long speculated about the nature of the human mind and the role of language in making the human mind what it is. Recent developments – in fields as diverse as robotics, brain imaging, anthropology and speech technology – bring a host of new perspectives to our quest to understand our own inner workings. Cognitive science brings together scholars from linguistics, psychology, philosophy, neuroscience and computer science.

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary attempt to understand the human mind. It focuses on abilities such as reasoning, perception, memory, awareness, emotion, attention, judgment, motor control, language use, and the connections between them. Cognitive science uses methods such as computer modelling, linguistic analysis, philosophical reasoning, robotics, neuroimaging and psychological experiments.

The University of Edinburgh played a key role in founding this discipline, by exploiting and enriching long-standing connections between the disciplines that contribute to the study of human cognition. We not only helped create the field, but are still at the forefront of it, so you will be taught by the researchers who laid the foundations and are still making key advances. The course content is regularly reviewed to ensure our students learn about current developments.

Our Cognitive Science (Humanities) programme requires you to undertake a selection of basic courses covering material in linguistics, philosophy, psychology and computer science.

At honours level, in Years 3 and 4, you will choose from a wide variety of more advanced courses in this range of disciplines, with the opportunity to specialise in one domain for your honours dissertation project.

Our goal is to help you come to a broad understanding of issues such as the relationship between language and thought, the relationship between mind and brain and the philosophical implications of our increasing ability to look inside the working brain and to model its activities in computers and robots.

Year 1

You will study general cognitive science courses that give an overview of perception, memory, motor control, language and reasoning, as well as introducing experimental, neural and computational methods. These courses, along with a course on logic and a course on the structure of language, aim to introduce you to philosophical, linguistic, computational and psychological approaches to studying the nature of language and the mind.

Year 2

Your coursework will cover more specifics in the sub-disciplines of philosophy, psychology, linguistics and computer science, in topics such as human cognitive processing, formal and natural languages, mental representations, and the debate about which types of knowledge are innate and which can be learned.

Year 3

You can choose from psychology courses including psycholinguistics, memory and perception, attention, development and neuropsychology; or from linguistics courses including language evolution, language acquisition and speech processing; or from philosophy courses including ontology of mind, theories of mind, theories of truth and ethics; or from computer science courses including language processing, neural computation, robotics and vision, and machine learning.

Year 4

In Year 4 you will also undertake an individual research project.

Are there additional costs?


Our facilities

You will be taught within the University's Central Area, and you will have full access to the libraries, computer facilities and specialised laboratories in our Psychology and Linguistics departments, as well as other facilities available across our campuses.

Study abroad

If you are studying cognitive science you will be encouraged to consider universities abroad, with the help of your Personal Tutor and/or members of the cognitive science academic staff. This will help to identify a university at which you could spend Year 3. You will study a range of courses that are comparable in academic range to those we offer.

How will I learn?

Courses are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, laboratory classes, small-group project work, and (in the fourth year) individual project work.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed by exams and coursework.

Graduates with cognitive science qualifications have excellent employment prospects in fields that will shape our society – those which depend on computers, such as economics, entertainment, technology, mobile systems, manufacturing and health, to name but a few – and those thought of traditionally as more arts orientated, such as the civil service, management, finance, journalism, social work and teaching.

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