College Bulletin 2023-2024 
    Jun 23, 2024  
College Bulletin 2023-2024

Cognitive Science



FRANK DURGIN (Psychology)2
Cheryl Sharp, Adminsitrative Coordinator
Deborah B Sloman, Administrative Assistant


Alan Baker (Philosophy)
Victor Barranca (Mathematics and Statistics)   
Joshua Goldwyn (Mathamatics and Statistics) 
Daniel Grodner (Psychology)
Ted Fernald (Linguistics)
Lisa Meeden (Computer Science)

Affiliated Faculty:
Alex Baugh (Biology)
Peter Baumann (Philosophy)
Eva-Maria Collins (Biology)
Maggie Delano (Engineering)
Wambura Fobbs (Psychology)
Vincent Formica (Biology)
Emily Foster-Hanson (Psychology)
K. David Harrison (Linguistics)3
Brian Metzger (Psychology)
Ben Mitchell (Computer Science)
Donna Jo Napoli (Linguistics and Social Justice)1
Catherine Norris (Psychology)
Lynne Schofield (Mathematics and Statistics)
Ameet Soni (Computer Science)
Joseph Towles (Engineering)
Jonathan Washington (Linguistics)3
Richard Wicentowski (Computer Science)
Benjamin Zinszer (Psychology)
Matt Zucker (Engineering)



1 Abesent on leave, Fall 2023.
2 Absent on leave, Spring 2024.
3 Absent on leave, 2023-2024.


The Cognitive Science Program has been developed to guide students who are interested in the interdisciplinary study of the mind, brain, and language, with emphases on formal structure, biological information processing, and computation. The program is designed to emphasize guided breadth across various disciplines that contribute to cognitive science as well as depth within a chosen discipline.

First Course Recommendations

COGS 001. Introduction to Cognitive Science   provides a multidisciplinary introduction to the field of cognitive science.It does this not only by exposing students to fundamental ideas and findings, but also by incorporating a substantial guest-scholar component: Typically, as many as ten different Swarthmore professors each conduct lecture/discussions during the semester. In this way, students get exposed to professors from many different departments involved in cognitive science. Note that this course is only offered in the fall semester. 

The Academic Program

We conceive of cognitive science as a loose federation of six specific disciplines. The disciplines included are: artificial intelligence (including robotics), cognitive psychology, linguistics, mathematics and statistics, neuroscience, and philosophy. To demonstrate breadth, students majoring or minoring in cognitive science are required to complete credits in at least three of these six disciplines.

Course Minor

Six credits are required for the minor. One of these is a required introductory course, COGS 001. The remaining 5 credits are to be distributed across three different disciplines of cognitive science. That is, 2 credits of listed courses, from 3 of the 6 disciplines, must be completed with the exception that in one-and only one-of the three disciplines, a single “focus course” may be used to meet the breadth requirement. Students who wish to use 2 credits in mathematics and statistics as one of their disciplines for a cognitive science minor must choose 2 credits from a single sub-area of mathematics and indicate its relevance to at least one of the two other disciplines chosen for the minor.

The list of courses currently approved as cognitive science courses is rather selective because it is intended to focus students on the most essential cores of cognitive science within each discipline. Many more courses, taught on campus, are closely relevant to cognitive science. This list is subject to periodic re-evaluation.

In addition to fulfilling the breadth requirements, students must indicate one cognitive science field in which they have substantial depth of preparation. Such depth can be documented by completion of at least 4 courses from within a cognitive science discipline (even if some of those courses are not directly related to cognitive science). Alternative curricular and extracurricular ways of fulfilling the depth requirement may be discussed with the coordinator.

Honors Minor

To complete an honors minor in cognitive science, students must complete all requirements listed above. The honors preparation for the minor will normally be a 2-credit unit approved by the relevant department from courses listed for the minor. The minor preparation must be within a discipline that is not the student’s honors major. Students are encouraged to develop an appropriate preparation in consultation with the coordinator.

Special Major

A Special Major in Cognitive Science normally involves fulfilling all requirements for the minor and then adding additional cognitive science related courses. Note that these additional credits may sometimes include courses not listed as eligible for the minor, subject to the approval of the program coordinator. A Special Major in Cognitive Science also normally requires a 1-credit senior thesis (COGS 090), though other formats for completing the thesis requirement exist (such as PSYC 102, PSYC 104, and PSYC 110, for those with depth in Psychology), and students may also elect to complete a 2-credit thesis with the approval of a thesis advisor and the program coordinator. A special major must have 10-12 credits in their program.

Note: It is recommended that students planning to complete their thesis requirement in collaboration with a psychology professor include PSYC 025: Research Design and Analysis in their major. Note additionally, that although PSYC 001: Introduction to Psychology is normally a prerequisite for enrollment in PSYC 025, students who are taking PSYC 025 as part of a Special Major in Cognitive Science and who have already completed COGS 001 may take PSYC 025 without taking PSYC 001. 

Honors Special Major

An honors special major in cognitive science is possible. While fulfilling the requirements of the minor, students must take four 2-credit honors preparations. One of these preparations is a Senior Honors Thesis (COGS 180). The other three preparations must be distributed across two or more disciplines within cognitive science. The nature of these honors preparations will be determined by the standard practices of the relevant departments.

Thesis / Culminating Exercise

In addition to the thesis requirement for special majors (see above), it is sometimes possible for minors in Cognitive Science who wish to get formal research experience to complete a 1-credit thesis or a 2-credit honors thesis in Cognitive Science during their senior year. Non-honors theses in Cognitive Science will normally be examined by Cognitive Science Committee members from within at least two different departments or, with the permission of the program coordinator, students may instead present their work at a departmental poster session.

Statistics and Mathematics

Two credits are required from a single statistics or mathematics sub-area. The sub-areas of mathematics and their eligible seminars and courses are as follows: