Undergraduate study - 2019 entry

Subject area: Cognitive Science (Humanities)

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

  • The University helped create the field of cognitive science and is still at the forefront of it. You will not only be taught by researchers who laid those foundations but by researchers who are still making key advances.

  • Cognitive science comprises psychology, philosophy, linguistics and informatics. Our broad-ranging research supports a wide range of advanced courses in later years, including those on consciousness, metaphysics, language acquisition, computational neuroscience, the computational mind, language pathology, and human agency and free will.

  • You will have access to state-of-the-art research facilities including EEG, non-invasive brain stimulation and eye and motion tracking equipment. You will also have access to a dedicated psychology and philosophy library.

  • The University is one of the largest centres in Europe for the study of human cognition and the only university in Scotland to offer it at undergraduate level.

  • Our teaching is innovative, fostering interactive engagement that promotes long-term understanding. Particularly in your early years, you will engage in small group discussion on problems that are answered via an online voting systems. Many courses actively encourage collaborative working so that you will learn from your instructors as well as your peers.

  • You will have the opportunity to undertake hands-on laboratory work for training in transferable skills like computer programming.

Study abroad

I feel like the University really wants to develop students as people not just academically.

Kat Steggles 2nd year MA (Hons) Cognitive Science
Kat Steggles 2nd year MA (Hons) Cognitive Science

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, judgement, 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. You will be taught by the researchers who both laid the foundations and are still making key advances in the field and 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?

None.

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 Year 4) 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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