Cognitive Science

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Designated Emphasis (DE) in Cognitive Science trains student in the breadth of interdisciplinary approaches to the science of the mind as well as in computational thinking. Cognitive Science is characterized by a focus on classic foundational questions about the mind, for example: What aspects of knowledge are innate? What aspects of thought are uniquely human? Is human thought rational? And it pursues these unifying core questions through methods drawn from a variety of disciplines, most commonly psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, anthropology, and philosophy.

Within this overall picture, there is one aspect of cognitive science that is theoretically central: computation. Computation serves both as a model of the mind, and as a set of precise tools for investigating it. Cognitive science thus represents an engagement with fundamental questions of the mind that is computationally oriented but is focused on human rather than artificial intelligence. In today’s environment, cognitive science has the potential to prepare students and citizens for a world in which the intersection of minds, machines, data, and inference is increasingly important, yet in which the centrality of the human mind to that intersection is sometimes obscured, or treated only superficially. Computational principles also serve as a shared lingua franca that allows psychologists, linguists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, and others to communicate with each other.

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PhD students in any department may apply. All applications must be reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee of the Graduate Group. To apply, students must submit a form listing their prior preparation in the field and their projected pathway through the program, along with a (maximum) on-page essay stating their interest and reasoning for applying. A CV and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member in the student’s home department indicating how and why the student would benefit from the DE. Students must be admitted to the DE prior to taking the Qualifying Exam. 

Admission will be determined by the members of the Executive Committee on the basis of the student’s background and preparation, and of how well the student has articulated the value of the DE for their larger course of study and career goals.

Designated Emphasis Requirements

DE students will be required to take three courses: one to fulfill a computational requirement, and two to fulfill a breadth requirement. Courses that fulfill these requirements are listed below. Students may petition the DE Executive Committee to have other classes added to these lists. Students will have to meet the prerequisites for the specific classes they wish to take. In addition, although it is not an official requirement, DE students will be encouraged to regularly attend and participate in the ICBS colloquia. 

Computational Cognitive Science

DE students should take one course in computational cognitive science. There are several options for fulfilling this requirement:

COG SCI 131Computational Models of Cognition4
COMPSCI 188Introduction to Artificial Intelligence4
COMPSCI C280Computer Vision3
COMPSCI C281AStatistical Learning Theory3
COMPSCI C281BAdvanced Topics in Learning and Decision Making3
COMPSCI 282ADesigning, Visualizing and Understanding Deep Neural Networks4
COMPSCI 285Deep Reinforcement Learning, Decision Making, and Control3
COMPSCI 287Advanced Robotics3
COMPSCI 287HAlgorithmic Human-Robot Interaction4
COMPSCI 288Natural Language Processing4
COMPSCI 289AIntroduction to Machine Learning4
EDUC 244Data Mining and Analytics3
EL ENG 225DAudio Signal Processing in Humans and Machines3
LINGUIS 243Language, Computation, and Cognition3
PSYCH 208Methods in Computational Modeling for Cognitive Science3
VIS SCI 265Neural Computation3


DE students should take two cognitive-science-relevant courses each of which is in a department or program other than their own, and other than the department or program offering the course that the student chose to fulfill the computational requirement. The breadth courses need not be primarily computational in focus, but they may be. The courses may be drawn from the computational bin shown above, or from the following additional courses:

ANTHRO 107Evolution of the Human Brain4
EDUC 203Cultivating Cognitive Development: From Sensorimotor Intelligence to Embodied STEM Concepts3
LINGUIS 205Advanced Cognitive Linguistics3
LINGUIS 208Advanced Psycholinguistics3
LINGUIS 210Advanced Phonetics3
PSYCH 210AProseminar: Cognition, Brain, and Behavior3
PSYCH 240AProseminar: Biological, Cognitive, and Language Development3

Contact Information

Cognitive Science

101 Stephens Hall

Phone: 510-642-4466

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Graduate Student Advisor

MacKenzie Moore

Director of Administration

Joan Kask

Chair and Head Graduate Advisor

Dr. Steven Piantadosi

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