BA in Social Sciences Interdisciplinary, Cognitive Science Concentration

Cognitive Science is one of six concentration areas in the Social Sciences Interdisciplinary major. It is designed for students interested in using an interdisciplinary approach to study the cognitive aspects of philosophy, artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, and computational linguistics, among others. It is the study of how the mind works. It investigates thought and consciousness, the senses and emotions, the structure of language, cultural patterns, neural organization, and the computational analogs of mental processes. It examines how these areas interact, how they develop in the growing human, and how they appear in other animals. 

PhD in Cognitive Science

PhD study of Cognitive Science at UB consists of a special Cognitive Science track in the PhD program of each of the participating departments. Participation in the track consists of five steps:

1.     Admission as a Graduate Student Member of the Center for Cognitive Science;

2.     Taking the prescribed set of Cognitive Science courses;

3.     Attendance at colloquia of the Center for Cognitive Science;

4.     Submission of a progress report to the Director of the Cognitive Science Tracks Program at the end of each academic year;

5.     Having an interdisciplinary, Cognitive Science dissertation committee; and

6.     Writing a Cognitive Science-related dissertation.

PhD Admissions Process

To become a Graduate Student Member of the Center for Cognitive Science (CCS), a student must be admitted into the graduate program of one of the participating departments.  This will be the student's home department. In addition, the student must apply for admission to the PhD tracks of the CCS. 

The application form should be returned to the CSS office with the following items included:

  1. The application cover sheet
  2.  A letter containing i) a statement of purpose stating your disciplinary interests in your home department, and your interdisciplinary interests in Cognitive Science; and ii)  a list of courses to be taken in satisfaction of the tracks requirements.  This letter should be endorsed by two faculty who are members of the CCS (they may be but need not be faculty in your department);  Note that revisions to this original proposal in the course of studies are normal and expected.
  3. A letter of recommendation from a faculty member of the CCS (either your major professor or the Cognitive Science advisor in your department.  The letter should be a brief statement of the advisor's confidence in you as a contributing participant in the PhD Tracks in the CCS.

All graduate student members of the CCS are expected to select the Cognitive Science track of their home departments.

Participating Departments

The departments that currently participate in the Cognitive Science PhD tracks are listed below. For any changes to this list, students should consult the Center office or the office of their home department.

·         Anthropology

·         Computer Science

·         Linguistics

·         Philosophy

·         Psychology

·         Communicative Disorders and Sciences

Dissertation Committees

The dissertation committee must satisfy the requirements of the student's home department. In addition the committee chair (major professor) must be a faculty member of the Center for Cognitive Science, and one other committee member must be a faculty member of the Center for Cognitive Science who is not from the home department. Satisfying this requirement might require a larger dissertation committee than is usual for the home department.

Instructions for Non-Participating Departments

A graduate student whose home department is not one of the participating departments may still pursue a PhD track in Cognitive Science. The student must satisfy all of the standard requirements with the following modifications.

The student's major professor need not be a faculty member of the Center for Cognitive Science. However, in addition to the standard application materials, the student must submit a letter from their department's Director of Graduate Studies approving the student's intention to pursue a Cognitive Science PhD track.

Dissertation Committee

The committee chair (major professor) need not be a faculty member of the Center for Cognitive Science, but two members of the dissertation committee must be, and they must be from different departments. UB Graduate School policy allows PhD candidates to have more than three members on their committee.

Course Requirements

In addition to the requirements of the home department, each student in a Cognitive Science Track must take six Cognitive Science courses that carry at least three credit hours each. The Cognitive Science Courses in addition to Introductory Cognitive Science Course 575 (B) must be distributed across three different departments. Up to two of these may be from the student's home department if any are on the approved course list, and students may apply to the Center office concerning non-listed courses.

A.     Introductory Cognitive Science Course 575, cross-listed in several different departments.

B.     Five additional Cognitive Science-approved courses.  Three of these must be distributed across two departments outside your home department.

C.     The courses should reflect general coherence around a topic area of your choice. Topical areas are listed below. At least four of the six Cognitive Science courses must form a coherent group.  It is up to the student and the student's major professor to choose the four coherent courses according to the student's research interests. The following are examples of possible topical areas.

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Comparative Cognitive Systems
  • Concepts and Categories
  • Formal and Computational Systems
  • Discourse
  • Spoken Language
  • Computational Linguistics
  • Vision

The CCS maintains and yearly updates a list of approved courses (see below). There may be other relevant and qualified courses, such as topics seminars, which escape the attention of the Center office. Students may apply to use such a non-listed course that coheres with their topical area. Students should contact the Center office for the approval procedure. 

In general, a tracks member may request a modification of course or other requirements by application to the Center with substantive justification. Such requests may be informally discussed with the Director of Graduate Studies before formal application.

Financial Aid

Financial aid, in the form of Teaching Assistantships, Graduate Assistantships, Research Assistantships, and Fellowships, may be available from the student's home department. In addition, the Center for Cognitive Science offers a limited number of Graduate Assistantships and Fellowships each year. These are available only to students who have been admitted or who have been offered admission as a Graduate Student Member of the Center for Cognitive Science.

A call for applications for financial aid will be issued near the beginning of Spring semester each year. To apply for a Cognitive Science Assistantship or Fellowship, please provide the following two documents to the Center:

1.     A letter from the student describing a) their progress in the Graduate Tracks program as well as their home department's program,  b)  a statement regarding their intended plan of study and research for the year for which they are applying for funding, and c)  their tentative time schedule until completion of their PhD. The letter should include a sketch of the topics on which their studies and research are focused.

2.     A letter from a faculty member of the Center, supporting this application.

If a student applies for Center membership and financial aid simultaneously, they may submit one letter from a faculty member supporting both.

Cognitive Science Graduate Student Association

The Cognitive Science Graduate Student Association (CSGSA) provides an opportunity for graduate students interested in Cognitive Science to interact with each other. All Graduate Student Members of the Center for Cognitive Science are automatically members of the Graduate Student Association for Cognitive Science. Other interested graduate students may join.

Approved Graduate Courses

The following departments offer approved Cognitive Science courses. Additional courses may be selected in consultation with Jürgen Bohnemeyer, the CCS Director of Graduate Studies.


Currently, any Anthropology course must be selected in consultation with CCS Director of Graduate Studies.

Communicative Disorders and Sciences

Computer Science and Engineering

  • CSE 503
    Computer Science for Non-Majors 1 
  • CSE 504
    Computer Science for Non-Majors 2
  • CSE 563
    Knowledge Representation 
  • CSE 567
    Computational Linguistics 
  • CSE 575
    Introduction to Cognitive Science 
  • CSE 584
    Philosophy of Computer Science
  • CSE 663
    Advanced Knowledge Representation 
  • CSE 667
    Advanced Topics in Computational Linguistics

Industrial Systems and Engineering

  • IE 531
    Research Methods in Human Factors
  • IE 532
    Human Information Processing 
  • IE 535
    Human-Computer Interaction 
  • IE 638
    Cognitive Engineering