Cognitive science minor offers interdisciplinary study of mind and science

The UConn sign is illuminated with blue nights at night duing a February snowfall. The cognitive science minor at the University of Connecticut offers students a chance to study the mind through various disciplines and types of research. Photo by Kevin Lindstrom/The Daily Campus

The cognitive science minor at the University of Connecticut offers students a chance to study the mind through various disciplines and types of research.  

The minor is offered through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and is an interdisciplinary program combining the fields of psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, anthropology, communication disorders and neuroscience and philosophy, according to the minor’s website.  

Students are required to complete 15 credits at the 2000-level or above, along with Foundations of Cognitive Science (COGS 2201) and four additional courses from three areas of study (cognition, language, perception, development, neuroscience and formal systems). A maximum of two courses can be taken from a single department. 

Although there is no requirement for an internship or field study, professor William Snyder, the director of undergraduate studies in cognitive science, highly recommends getting involved in undergraduate research.  

“If somebody were doing a minor and was interested in a particular area of study, getting involved in a research project with a faculty member would be great,” Snyder said. “Even if you don’t decide to become an expert specialist in whatever the faculty member is doing, you’re going to now have someone who knows you and your intellect really well and can write a letter of recommendation that people will take seriously.” 

A minor in cognitive science is beneficial for students considering graduate school in any of the areas connected or contributing to the field, such as psychology.  

“People with those interests will often take a course here or there in lots of different departments but it doesn’t necessarily have any logic to it. The minor provides a structure so you get a comprehensive and solid foundation in several distinct areas of cognitive science,” said Snyder. 

Some students have also used their study of cognitive science in preparation for medical or law school, and the minor can be helpful to have on a resume for a career in computer science.  

“There are a lot of areas and industries that are now making use of things like artificial intelligence and data mining,” Snyder said. “For people who want to go into those areas, any background in cognitive science is relevant and employers will appreciate someone with serious intellectual commitment to those fields.” 

The minor is most relevant for careers or schooling in clinically oriented directions like speech and language pathology or clinical psychology, but it can be used in non-traditional ways like counseling and mediation or hotel management.  

Professor Snyder also emphasized the difference between cognitive science and psychology, although there are many connections between the two, like clinical psychology.  

“There’s a lot of overlap. The computational perspective is what sets cognitive science apart from psychology. A theory in cognitive science has to be very explicit, testable, reproducible and eventually translatable into a computer program,” said Snyder.  

He went on to add that cognitive science is more interdisciplinary than psychology, which includes areas like speech, language and hearing sciences or anthropology.  

“Cognitive, experimental, developmental and clinical psychology all have connections to cognitive science. Anything that studies the mind and cognition of humans and non-human animals is under the umbrella,” said Snyder. “A lot of value is placed on bringing researchers from different traditions together to work on the same problems, pooling their background and knowledge of their specific disciplines.”  

Students interested in pursuing a minor in cognitive science should contact professor Snyder.  

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