What is Cognitive Science?
More than two millennia ago, philosophers began to think about the properties of mind and matter. A few centuries ago,the idea to view thinking as mental calculation arose. With the advent of computers in this century, this idea could be realised. In recent decades, members of various disciplines have collaborated in studying mental processes and representations and in trying to build intelligent systems. In the last few years, it has become obvious that it is also necessary to study the brain and its neural architectures. Now, Cognitive Science has emerged as an 'inter-discipline' concerned with
- the scientific study of mind and brain,
- the explanation of human linguistic and non-linguistic behavior, and
- the building of artificial intelligent systems.
It comprises central aspects of the following disciplines:
- artificial intelligence,
- computer science,
- (computational) linguistics,
- (computational) neuroscience,
- philosophy of mind and cognition,
- (cognitive) psychology.
A brief description of the programmes
Although the study of cognition has been going on for over two thousand years, Cognitive Science as a recognised academic subject is relatively new. Around 1975, it developed from converging research approaches in different subjects, namely philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, and artificial intelligence research (as part of computer science). First, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research programmes were set up, then extended-research subjects and research centres were established, and finally whole courses of study as well as faculties were founded. While the US, Great Britain and Canada have been leading this development, the whole of Europe is increasingly catching up.
The Bachelor, Master's & PhD programmes in Osnabrück are the first substantial Cognitive Science programmes offered in Germany. Within the largely method-oriented six-semester Bachelor programme, students will be able to obtain a "Bachelor of Science" in Cognitive Science. The four-semester Master's programme treats phenomenological areas of cognition theoretically, empirically and by way of implementation. At the end of the Master's programme, the students can obtain a "Master of Science" degree in Cognitive Science. The PhD Programme is a curricular programme enabling students to achieve a "Ph.D in Cognitive Science" within three years. Doctorate students will carry out independent research in promising and highly active areas of Cognitive Science.
Being an international course of study advertised and supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and supported by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Technology (BMBF), Cognitive Science aims at attracting an equal number of German and foreign students, employs the Bachelor and Master's degrees, and the ECTS credit system which make the programme internationally comparable . The language of instruction is English. Foreign students who wish to study in Germany are given an opportunity to do so, while at the same time the course of study covers an obvious need in Germany.
The methodological approach of Cognitive Science clearly reveals the interdisciplinary heritage of the subject: Cognitive Science combines the humanistic and analytical methods of the arts and the formal sciences (e.g. theoretical linguistics) with the scientific, experimental approaches of psychology and neuroscience, as well as with the synthetic and constructive techniques of computer science. A case in point is natural language understanding: Based on linguistic theories of grammar, it tests psycholinguistic hypotheses of human language processing by means of experiment. Furthermore, it leads to the development of simulation models with the help of programming techniques derived from computational linguistics and based on results obtained by artificial intelligence ("cognitive modelling").
Considering the fact that particularly German Cognitive Science is still characterised by a separation into various camps of "cognitive modellists", "experimentalists" and "neuroscientists", it is of great importance to the new course of study and highly advantageous to the course profile to focus on the mutual complementation and possible integration of these approaches.
The study aims comprise the acquisition of methodological and practical competence in
- computer science and mathematics (especially: algorithms and programming languages; formal languages; mathematical foundations of cognitive science; artificial intelligence, including knowledge representation,
learning, planning, multiagent systems)
- psychology (especially: methodology of empirical research; cognitive psychology; personality psychology, behavioural psychology; developmental psychology; neuropsychology)
- neuroscience and biology (especially: imaging methods; neurobiology; neuroanatomy; neuroethology; neurocomputing)
- linguistics and psycholinguistics (especially: lexicon, syntax, semantics, pragmatics; theory of grammar)
- philosophy (especially: philosophy of mind; theory of knowledge, theory of science, philosophical logic; ethics)
In addition, the Master's programme includes specialisation with regard to the contributing disciplines or the central questions of Cognitive Science. It also puts emphasis on integration and practice of the analysis and modelling of cognitive systems through project-related work (obligatory participation in a one-year students' project).
Evaluation of the Study Programme
In January 2003, the Bachelor and the Master's Programme were evaluated by the "Zentralen Evaluations- und Akkreditierungsagentur Hannover" (ZEvA) (certification document (PDF)).
Application, Course of Study
The specific regulations (application, admission, study and examination regulations) for the Bachelor, Master's, and PhD Programme are listed on the pages of the specific programme.
- General information about the University of Osnabrück and the courses is provided on the homepage of the university.
- The cognitive science students are very active. They are organised in a so-called Fachschaft (student representative body) which also provides a lot of interesting information on its homepage
- Cognitive Science Careers Report of the German Cognitive Science Society, published in Kognitionswissenschaft 6, 135-142. (only in German)
- There is some information on grants and financial aid collected by the university here
(only in German).