Courses & Requirements
Academic requirements and courses are available in the Vassar College Catalogue.
Introduction to Cognitive Science (Cognitive Science 100), which is required for the major but open to all students, is the entrance into the program. The course asks what we mean by mind and who or what has a mind. We examine computer models of mind and the relationship between mind and brain. The course also focuses on what makes any agent, from simple animal to human to intelligent machine, able to behave, with an emphasis on perception and action, memory, decision making, language, and consciousness. We also explore the degree to which cognition requires and is influenced by having a body and acting in a world. Multiple sections of the course are offered each year, and first-year students interested in cognitive science are encouraged to consider taking one. This course also serves as the prerequisite for all intermediate-level courses in cognitive science.
Cognitive science is a multidisciplinary field that emerged at the intersection of a number of older disciplines, such as philosophy, computer science, psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, linguistics, biology, and mathematics. The department offers a core set of courses that teach students how to think in an integrative fashion, but it also requires that students find applications of these ideas in other areas of the curriculum outside of cognitive science. Courses in many divisions of the curriculum, from the arts to the sciences, may count toward the major if they help to develop the skills needed to complete the required senior thesis. The interested student should meet with a member of the faculty to discuss how these courses might be selected.
Vassar offered the first undergraduate major in cognitive science in the world. Distinctive aspects of the program include the number of integrative courses offered in cognitive science itself, especially the intermediate level and laboratory course offerings, and the commitment to balanced coverage of the main topics and perspectives that characterize the current state of this rapidly changing field. Opportunities are available for students to obtain summer positions working on faculty research projects at Vassar and other schools.