Fall 2008 Syllabus
Cognitive Science
CSCI 3702  |  LING 3005  |  PHIL 3310   |  PSYC 3005

Tu, Th  14:00 - 15:15
Muenzinger D430


Professor Robert Rupert (rupertr@colorado.edu)
Department of Philosophy
Hellems 188
(303) 735-0988
Office Hours:  Tu, Th 9:30-10:30, W 12:00-13:00, and by appointment

Professor Michael Mozer (mozer@cs.colorado.edu)
Department of Computer Science
Engineering Center Office Tower 7-41
(303) 492-4103
Office Hours:  Tu 12:30-13:30, W 13:00-14:00, and by appointment

Course Teaching Assistants

Ben Pageler (ben.pageler@colorado.edu):  Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy
Brian Mingus (brian.mingus@colorado.edu): BS Psychology; Professional Research Asst, University of Colorado
Luka Ruzik (luka.ruzik@colorado.edu): BS Philosophy and Psychology; Professional Research Asst., University of Colorado

Course Objectives

This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of cognitive science, which is concerned with understanding the nature of cognition in humans, animals, and machines.  Cognition refers to the mental processes that compose our mind:  thought, reasoning, decision making, language, learning, and perception.  The style of work in cognitive science is interdisciplinary, drawing upon ideas from psychology, philosophy, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, and education.  A guiding theme of work in cognitive science is the the idea that the mind can be understood as a computational system, sometimes referred to as the computational metaphor of the mind.

Rather than conducting a survey of basic works in the field, we have decided to organize the course around two specific topics, and attack each topic from multiple cognitive science perspectives, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the topic than one would acquire by adopting a single perspective.  The topics we've chosen for 2008 are consciousness and situated cognition. We've chosen these topics because they are addressed by the traditional disciplines forming cognitive science, and because the topics cut across aspects of cognition, including:  perception, attention, memory, thought, language, and cognitive control.

Consciousness studies

Only recently has consciousness research become accepted within the academic community. As John Searle puts it, raising the subject of consciousness in cognitive science discussions is no longer considered to be "bad taste," causing graduate students to "roll their eyes at the ceiling and assume expressions of mild disgust." Indeed, consciousness research has been extremely active the past few years, and has led to significant results in experimental psychology, neuroscience, and computational modeling, and significant debates within the philosophy and linguistics communities.

Most people are interested in consciousness not just because of the academic and interdisciplinary challenges, but because it is at the core of their personal experience. However, to make progress in studying consciousness, precise and rigorous analysis is required.

Topics covered may include:

Situated cognition

The most influential approaches in the history of cognitive science characterize thought as the manipulation of symbols in a quasi-mathematical system: think in terms of formal logic or the analysis of chess games. Critics of this orthodoxy claim that cognitive science is bogged down and can move forward only by attending to the physical context in which cognitive processing takes place. What role does the environment play in cognition? What role does the body (beyond the brain) play? In recent years, many cognitive scientists and philosophers have argued that, because human cognition relies so heavily on the use of external resources, cognition literally extends into the environment beyond the boundary of the human organism. Less radically, it is often claimed that human cognition is essentially embedded in the environment or that cognition draws essentially on bodily resources. In this half of the course, we examine some of the fascinating research behind these claims.


The official prerequisite is at least two of the following courses, or their equivalents:  CSCI 1300, PSYC 2145, LING 2000, PHIL 2440. However, space permitting, we will admit students who have not fulfilled the prerequisites.  If the course is oversubscribed, priority will be given to students enrolled in the Cognitive Science Certificate program.

Course Readings

Readings are available on the web.  Readings are listed by author names and year of publication.  Full citations to the papers, as well as other potentially interesting papers, can be found here.

The readings are divided into required and optional. Among the optional readings are chapters from Paul Thagard's text, Mind: Introduction to Cognitive Science.  The text is meant to provide background information on cognitive science to supplement the lectures and to make the required readings more accessible.  


Course Schedule

Date General Topic Specific Topic Required Readings Additional Readings Lecture Notes
Aug 26 General introduction Course overview
Aug 28 What is cognitive science?
Thagard, Introduction and Chapter 1  
Sep 2 Consciousness Philosophical foundations Searle (2000) Thagard, Chapter 11;
Chalmers (1995); Searle (1997)
Sep 4 Jackson (1982)
Sep 9 Tutorial: Cognitive modeling    Thagard, Chapter 7; see also links at bottom of this page
Sep 11 Tutorial: Neuroscience    Thagard, Chapter 9;  Tong (2003); see also links at bottom of this page Sep11
Sep 16 Perception Rees (2007)
Dehaene et al. (2006); Moutoussis & Zeki (2002); Zeki (2003); Lamme (2003); Tong et al (2006); Lamme (2006); prosopagnosia: Farah, O'Reilly, & Vecera (1993); illusions: Gregory (1997); blindsight: Weiskrantz(1996); subliminal perception: Bar & Biederman (1998); binocular rivalry: Polonsky, Blake, Braun, & Heeger (2000); Leopold & Logothetis (1999) Sep16
Sep 18 Attention Robertson (2003) Driver & Mattingley (1998) Sep18
Sep 23 Memory Cleeremans, Destrebecqz, & Boyer (1998) implicit vs. explicit memory: Foerde, Knowlton, & Poldrack (2006); Schacter (1998);  amnesia: Squire & Zola (1997);  Eichenbaum (1999); memory under amnesia: Merikle & Daneman (1996) Sep23
Sep 25 Reasoning and decision making Nisbett and Wilson (1977) Knutson & Kuhnen (2008); Ruys & Stapel (2008)
Sep 30 Ramachandran (1995) Ehrsson et al. (2007)
Oct 2
Cognitive control Linser & Goschke (2007) Mayr (2004); Haggard, Clark, Kalogeras (2002); Blakemore, Oakley, & Frith (2003) Oct2
Oct 7 Language and thought Ling. Society of America FAQ
Majid, Bowerman, Kita, Haun, & Levinson (2004)
Gleitman & Papafagou (2005); Slobin (2003); split brain and language: Morin (2001); implicit knowledge in language: Bock & Griffin (2000); Chang et al. (2000); language learning: Elman (1990); dyslexia: Hinton, Plaut & Shallice (1993) Oct7
Oct 9 Theoretical perspectives Maia & Cleeremans (2005) Colagrosso & Mozer (2005); Baars (2002); Dehaene et al. (2006); Crick & Koch (2003)
Oct 14 Social awareness; Theory of mind Gallese, Keysers, & Rizzolati (2004) Frith (1997); Frith & Happe (1999) Oct14
Oct 16 Situated cognition "The extended mind" Clark & Chalmers (1998) Shapiro (2007)
Oct 21 "Deictic Codes for the Embodiment of Cognition” Ballard et al. (1997), pp. 723-734 Ballard et al, pp. 734-767; Thagard, Chapter 2

Oct 23 “The Soft Constraints Hypothesis: A Rational Analysis Approach to Resource Allocation for Interactive Behavior” Gray, Sims, Schoelles, & Fu (2006), pp. 461-469, 477-478 remainder of Gray article; Thagard, Chapter 3
Oct 28 "Six Views of Embodied Cognition" Wilson (2002) Rupert (2004) Oct28
Oct 30 "What memory is for"
Glenberg (1997), pp. 1-19 remainder of Glenberg article; Thagard, Chapter 4
Nov 4 "The case for sensorimotor coding in working memory" Wilson (2001)    Nov4
Nov 6 Special Visitor: Ned Block (philosophy, NYU)   Block (2007)
(pp. 481-498)
remainder of Block article (pp. 498-)   
Nov 11 "Spatial Representations Activated During Real-Time Comprehension of Verbs"
Richardson et al. (2003)
Thagard, Chapter 5; Spivey & Geng (2001); Clark (2006); Beilock et al (2008) Nov11
Nov 13 Special Visitor:  Michael Spivey (psycholinguistics, Cornell) Spivey & Dale (2006)
Spivey, Richardson, & Fitneva (2004)
We want you to read one article or the other.  You may write a commentary on either one, or hand in two commentaries, one per article.   
Nov 18 "Grounding conceptual knowledge in modality-specific systems" Barsalou, Simmons, Barbey, & Wilson (2003)  Thagard, Chapter 6 Nov18
Nov 20 "Change blindness" Simons & Levin (1997) Simons (2000) Nov20
Nov 25


Nov 27
Dec 2 "Change blindness and priming:  When it does and does not occur"
Dec 4 “Self-Images in the Video Monitor Coded by Monkey Intraparietal Neurons”  Iriki, Tanaka, Obayashi, & Iwamura  (2001) Maravita et al. (2002)
Dec 9 "Constraining theories of embodied cognition" Markman & Brendl (2005) Markman & Dietrich (2000)
Dec 11 "Neural foundations for undrestanding social and mechanical concepts" Martin & Weissberg (2003)   Dec11
Dec 15
7:30 a.m. - 10 a.m.
Final Exam Period student presentations

Course Requirements


Reading assignments are available from the course web page. Students are expected to have done the readings in advance of the class session in which they will be discussed.  If you find that you are having trouble understanding the required readings, some of the optional readings -- particularly the chapters from Thagard -- provide background information that will help with the required readings.  If you find a topic particularly interesting, some of the optional readings provide more information.


For fifteen of the class sessions, you are to hand in a commentary page.  The commentary consists of a half to full page (single spaced) of comments, questions, or critiques of the assigned reading(s) for that class. This page will be due in class.  You can choose the sessions for which you write the commentaries based on your interest.  If you hand in more than fifteen commentaries, we will drop the lowest scores. 

The commentary should include a summary of the key and most interesting ideas in the reading(s).  You must explain clearly and relatively accurately some of the important material from the reading(s).  For example, you could explain the paper's main argument, one or more of the studies used to support the argument (more technically, to support one or more of the argument's premises).  You needn't provide an exhaustive summary.  Use your judgement to determine the most important points and ideas.

Beyond the summary, you can include other thoughts, including:

Ideally, we want to read about your analysis of the paper, not simply whether or not you liked or understood the reading. These commentaries are intended to promote careful thought about a paper before the session in which it is discussed. Your commentary should be limited to one page. One point of the exercise is the concise expression of your thoughts and reactions.

Late commentaries will not be accepted. You are to bring the commentaries to class yourself, and not ask a friend to hand them in for you.  Hard copies of the commentaries must be submitted in class; we will not accept electronic submission.


To ensure you are engaging with and understanding the readings, we will give a number of quizzes over the course of the semester, roughly one every other class.  The quizzes will take place during the final 10 minutes of class, and will ask you one or two questions concerning the reading.  The questions may be factual or ask for your interpretation of the paper.  Even if you have a legitimate reason for missing class on the day of a quiz, we will not allow you to retake it.  However, we will drop the lowest 20% of your quiz scores, which effectively means that you can miss 20% of classes without suffering a grade penalty.

Class meetings

We expect and hope you will attend all class sessions.  The course will build on assigned readings, and the shared understanding that comes about from discussion of the readings in class sessions.   Attendance and participation in class is a significant portion of your work for the course.  Simply doing the readings and handing in the commentaries is not sufficient.  We realize that many of you will have good reasons for not coming to class, but the fact remains, if you are not in class, you have not benefited from the discussion.  If you are not finding the class sessions useful, you should speak to the professors about what can be done to improve classes. We will not take attendance, but your attendance will indirectly influence your grade via the quizzes, commentaries, and class participation. 

Term Paper

A term paper is due at the time of our scheduled final, December 15 at 10 a.m. Hand in your paper to us in person (if you come to the final session, where students will volunteer to give oral presentations), or leave under Mike or Rob's door by 10 a.m.  Late papers will not be accepted.  The term paper should be about 15 pages double spaced. You are also required to hand in an overview/draft of the paper by November 18.  You will be graded on the overview/draft as well as on your final submission.

The paper must address some issue in cognitive science that can be related to material we covered in class.  The best possible thing to do would be to pick a topic that spanned both of our primary topics.  You may expand on a topic we have discussed in class, or address a topic we did not have time to cover.  For ideas on picking a topic:  (a) look over the supplementary readings, (b) follow some of the links below in the area of cog sci; (c) discuss your interests with the professors; or (d) leaf through (either electronically or at the library) the contents of journals such as Cognitive Science, Trends in Cognitive Science, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Consciousness and Cognition, Nature, Science, Cognition, Mind and Language, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and Philosophical Psychology.  Read abstracts and skim through papers, until you find a topic or specific article that interests you.  Once you have a topic or one article on topic, finding other references should be straightforward. 

We do have three criteria for the topic and content of your paper.  First, the paper should make contact with material we have covered in class, so that you can demonstrate that you understand this material and can relate what you learned in class to other aspects of cognitive science.  Second, the paper should take an interdisciplinary perspective on the topic of your choice.  If you are a philosopher, it's fine to write a paper that primarily deals with philosophical issues and perspectives, but the argumentation of the paper should exploit experimental data from other areas of cognitive science (e.g., the type of papers that Pat Churcland writes).  If you are a psychologist, consider not only the behavioral literature, but also neuroscientific and linguistic data, and computational perspectives.  Third, you should use articles in refereed scientific journal as the basis for your presentation.  Top journals are listed above.  We expect you to use at least 3 primary sources, and possibly additional articles.

The overview/draft due in mid-November should be sufficient to demonstrate that you've thought about the topic of the paper and have researched references.  Specifically, it should include: (a) a list of articles you will read and cite, (b) extended summaries of at least two articles, (c) a paragraph about the big picture of what you're trying to achieve in the paper, and how it relates to the articles, (d) a tentative abstract for the paper.  If you put in the time, the work you do for the overview should integrate directly into the final paper. A portion of your grade on the term paper will depend on what you handed in for the overview.

The overview must be emailed to Ben (see email address above) by the end of the day on November 18.  The file must have either a .txt or .doc extension (so that Ben can load the file into google docs, which will allow the two profs and graders to simultaneously comment on the overview).  Your email should have "Cognitive Science Draft" in the subject line.

We require that you hand in a hard copy of the final paper.  We will not accept final papers via email.  The reason for this requirement is that hard copies are much easier to sort and rank and compare than electronic versions.  Each term paper will be reviewed by at least two of us, and will be graded on the criteria below.  We will be happy to provide scores via email if you make the request, and detailed feedback in person after final grades are handed in.  Late papers will not be accepted.

Class Presentations

Students may optionally give presentations during the semester for extra credit. You could volunteer to present a summary of one of the supplementary readings that you find interesting (see the professors for suggestions).  During the final exam period, you could volunteer to present a summary of your research paper findings.  Talk to one of the professors if you're interested in this form of extra credit.

Final Exam

We will not have a final exam for the course.  However, please plan to attend the final exam session.  We will use the time for student presentations of term paper findings.


Commentaries will be graded on a four point scale:  0, check-minus, check, and check-plus.  The baseline requirement for a check is that your summary addresses the main points in the paper, and provides enough detail that someone could read your summary and get the gist of the article. A satisfactory summary not only includes the main points, but excludes irrelevant detail, so don't simply fill up a page with whatever trivia you remember about the paper.  A check-minus will be assigned if it appears that you've missed some of the key ideas of the article.  A check-plus will be given if your summary satisfies the criteria for a check, and you show some additional insight via your critique of the work (see the last bullet point above concerning the critiques). 

Semester grades will be based 30% on the commentaries (and the initial homework), 20% on quizzes, 10% on your term paper overview/draft, 30% on the final term paper, and 10% on class participation.

Interesting Links







Animal Cognition

Legal Disclaimers

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit a letter from Disability Services in a timely manner so that your needs may be addressed.  Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities.  Contact: 303-492-8671, Willard 322, and http://www.Colorado.EDU/disabilityservices.

Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to reasonably and fairly deal with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments or required attendance.  Please see me if you have concerns with our syllabus.  See full details of campus policy at http://www.colorado.edu/policies/fac_relig.html.

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Students who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Faculty have the professional responsibility to treat all students with understanding, dignity and respect, to guide classroom discussion and to set reasonable limits on the manner in which they and their students express opinions.  Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, culture, religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender variance, and nationalities.  Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records.  See polices at http://www.colorado.edu/policies/classbehavior.html and at http://www.colorado.edu/studentaffairs/judicialaffairs/code.html#student_code.

All students of the University of Colorado at Boulder are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of this institution.  Violations of this policy may include: cheating, plagiarism, aid of academic dishonesty, fabrication, lying, bribery, and threatening behavior.  All incidents of academic misconduct shall be reported to the Honor Code Council (honor@colorado.edu; 303-725-2273). Students who are found to be in violation of the academic integrity policy will be subject to both academic sanctions from the faculty member and non-academic sanctions (including but not limited to university probation, suspension, or expulsion). Other information on the Honor Code can be found at http://www.colorado.edu/policies/honor.html  and at http://www.colorado.edu/academics/honorcode/.

The University of Colorado at Boulder policy on Discrimination and Harassment (http://www.colorado.edu/policies/discrimination.html), the University of Colorado policy on Sexual Harassment and the University of Colorado policy on Amorous Relationships applies to all students, staff and faculty.  Any student, staff or faculty member who believes s/he has been the subject of discrimination or harassment based upon race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status should contact the Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) at 303-492-2127 or the Office of Judicial Affairs at 303-492-5550.  Information about the ODH and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding discrimination or harassment can be obtained at  http://www.colorado.edu/odh.