Introduction to Cognitive Science


Introduction to Cognitive Science

Credit: 4

Course Coordinator: Sanjay Chandrasekharan

Tutor: Anveshna Srivastava

Duration: 16 weeks; class starts 16 August Time: Monday (2.30-4.30 PM) and Thursday, 11 to 1 PM (Saturday classes will make up for holidays).


Course Content:

This is a survey course, seeking to provide an overview of the major problem domains investigated in cognitive science, particularly cognitive psychology, and the experimental methods used. Some theoretical issues will be discussed, but in the context of the problem domains. The objective is to provide a guide to navigating the cognitive psychology literature, as well as developing the skills to ask critical questions. A second objective will be gaining familiarity with the data, empirical methods and argument structures used in the study of cognition. The class discussion will seek to connect the course topics with issues in education.


The course requires extensive reading (45-50 pages a week; 14 Chapters). The readings will be primarily based on the Smith and Kosslyn textbook, which is listed below. Course participants are required to get a copy of this book. A few chapters will come from the Matlin book. Copies of these sections will be provided.

1.Smith, E. E., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2007). Cognitive Psychology- Mind and Brain. Pearson Education Inc., New Jersey. (For all weeks except Week 7 and 15).

2.Matlin, M.W. (2009). Cognitive Psychology. John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey. (For Week 7, Week 12, Week 15). The title for each week in the course plan below indicates the general gist of the topic covered in a particular week.


Class structure:

The class will be participant-driven and discussion-based. Each week's chapter would be presented by a team of two participants, possibly in two sections. This cycle will continue throughout the course. All participants are requested to read the text beforehand, so that all can discuss and critically analyse the issues raised by the chapter.


All participants have to turn in a “comments and queries” document every Monday to the TA, focusing on the week's readings. See Note 1 for guidelines on what is expected in this document. The comments and queries would also be used to frame the discussion in the class. Participants who are presenting the material in a given week need not submit this document for that week, but generating these would be useful in guiding the discussion.



Students taking the course for credit will be graded on the basis of a final term paper (50%) as well as the comments and queries document (50%). The paper should preferably connect the student's interest in education with one of the topics covered in the course. A rough outline of the term paper should be submitted by November 15.


Course Plan:

Week 1 (Aug 16): Introduction, background, course outline, primers etc.

Week 2 (August 23, 25): How the Brain gives rise to the Mind

Week 3(August 27, 30): Perception

Week 4 (September 3, 6): Attention

Week 5 (September 10, 13): Representation and knowledge in Long-Term Memory

Week 6 (September 17, 20): Encoding and retrieval from Long-Term Memory.

Week 7(September 24, 27): Using memory strategies and Metacognition (Matlin)

Week 8 (October 1, 4): Working Memory

Week 9(October 8, 11): Executive Processes

Week 10 (October 15, 18): Emotion and Cognition

Week 11(October 29 to November 1): Decision Making

Week 12 (November 5, 8): Problem solving and reasoning; Creativity (Matlin)

Week 13 (November 19, 22): Motor Cognition and Mental Simulation

Week 14 (November 26, 29): Language

Week 15 (December 3, 6): Developing cognitive Abilities (Matlin)

Week 16 (December 10, 13): Discussion



1) A summary of the chapter is not expected. If summarising helps you in understanding the material, you should still do it. But keep that part as a separate file, and refer to the summaries when you run into problems or get stuck while conceptualizing/writing your paper/proposal/thesis.

2) Queries with the following structure are not useful: "how can we use (say) mental imagery for education/design"? There is no clear answer to this question, because it is too general. It would be better if you turn such questions into something like: "in math/science education, there is this problem of XYZ, and the author's ideas seem to imply that strategy ABC would be useful/would not work, is this right?" or something along these lines. To do this, you will have to do some focused thinking about the author's ideas, and apply it to a problem you are familiar with. If you have a question like this, other people can contribute to the discussion, and maybe even help you solve a problem.

3) Comments along the lines of "this view is interesting", "the author has done a good job" etc. are not useful. Comments should show close engagement with the ideas in the papers. So something like "the author's position seems to contradict/support the position of (another) author X in the following way" or "the data seems to be showing X, but it does not seem to support the author's claims" or "the author argues for X, but it has the following implication, which is undesirable" etc.

4) Before writing your C&Q, try to think a little more deeply about the implications of the ideas presented by the authors, and also try to connect their ideas with other things you have read, in the class or outside. This would help you come up with C&Qs that are closer to my description above.


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