Introduction to Cognitive Science
Master's Program in Cognitive Science, Comenius University in Bratislava

Time/Place: Winter Semester 2016/17, Wednesday 14:00-16:25, room I-8

Credits: 5

RNDr. Martin Takáč, PhD., Centre for Cognitive Science, Dept. of Applied Informatics, room I-37,, MT's homepage
RNDr. Barbora Cimrová, PhD., Centre for Cognitive Science, Dept. of Applied Informatics, room I-33a, BC's homepage

Indicative Content and Learning Outcomes

Cognitive Science is a new interdsciplinary field focusing on the study of mind and intelligent behavior. Its roots are in psychology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, antropology and philosophy. Content-wise, the students will learn about:

  • History, theories, methods and topics of cognitive science
  • Disciplines of cognitive science, their specific contributions
  • Representational paradigms
  • Cognitive modeling
  • Ethical aspects of cognitive science and technologies

Method-wise, the students will acquire the following skills:
  • Think in an interdisciplinary way, appreciate multiple perspectives.
  • Search and critically evaluate scientific knowledge sources.
  • Critically read papers of different disciplines/styles.
  • Orally present topics of interest.
  • Learn about academic honesty practices and plagiarism.
  • Write a scientific paper and cite literature properly.
  • Review their peer's paper.
  • Work independently, participate in discussions.


readings: 48 hours before start of the respective lecture, i.e. Monday 14:00 (Late submission policy: the maximum achievable points decrease linearly in 1 hour steps from full amount at the deadline to zero at 24 hours after the deadline).

paper - topic selection: 7.11.2016

paper - first version: 7.12.2016 midnight (Late submission policy: daily linear decrease to zero 7 days after the deadline).

paper peer-review: 11.1.2017 midnight (Late submission policy: daily linear decrease to zero 7 days after the deadline).

paper final version: 25.1.2017 midnight (Late submission policy: daily linear decrease to zero 7 days after the deadline).

integration reflection: 31.1.2017 midnight (Late submission policy: daily linear decrease to zero 7 days after the deadline).


0-50 % Fx
51-60 % E
61-70 % D
71-80 % C
81-90 % B
91-100 % A

Course schedule

Session Date Topic Presentation Readings Supplementary
1. Sept 21 Information meeting, preliminaries
2. Tue Sept 27, 14:00-18:30 (note unusual date/time) Experimental group work (workshop) with prof. Markus Peschl (Vienna) no reading
- Sept 28 No class!
3. Oct 5 Introduction: Resources, Methods, Sciences and History of Cognitive Science (pdf) Dávid (no reading, send us your personal learning goal)
4. Oct 12 Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Representational Theory of Mind (pdf)
Concepts to be worked on:
  • representational theory of mind
  • functionalism
  • multiple realizability
Andrej, Xenia, Lulu Putnam, H. (1967). The nature of mental states. Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, 1, 222-231.
5. Oct 19 Neuroscience (pdf)
Concepts to be worked on:
  • Experimental Approaches to Brain Functions
  • Brain Imaging Techniques
  • An Overview of the Nervous System
  • Organization principles of NS
Peter, Dávid, Lulu Hubel, D.H., Wiesel, T.N.: Receptive Fields of Cells in Striate Cortex of Very Young, Visually Inexperienced Kittens. J Neurophysiol. 1963 Nov;26:994-1002.
6. Oct 26 Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Classical (computationalism) (pdf)
Concepts to be worked on:
  • Physical Symbol Systems Hypothesis
  • Turing machine
  • symbolic representation of the world
  • symbol grounding
  • Chinese Room argument
Andrej, Xenia Fikes, R.E., Hart, P.E., Nilsson, N.J., 1972. Learning and Executing Generalized Robot Plans (excerpt), Technical Note 70. AI Center, SRI International.
8. Nov 2 Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Connectionism & Neural Computation (pdf)
Concepts to be worked on:
  • symbolic versus subsymbolic
  • distributed representation
  • gradedness
  • graceful degradation
  • robustness
Science practice (by M.T. and B.C.) Sejnowski, T.J., Rosenberg, C. R.: NETtalk: A Parallel Network That Learns to Read Aloud. Technical Report JHU/EECS-86/01. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, (1986).
9. Nov 9 Computational Modeling:
general principles and case studies (pdf)
Concepts to be worked on:
  • hypotheses, data, model, simulation
  • model parameters
  • model behaviour and model fit
  • simplification
  • proof-of-concept
  • validation and verification
Paper writing (by M.T. and B.C.) Dörner, D., Bamberg, D., & Mayer, M. (2006). A Simulation of Cognitive and Emotional Effects of Overcrowding. Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Cognitive Modeling ICCM 2006, 92-99.
- Nov 16
No class!
10. Nov 23 Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Embodiment & Situated Cognition: Mechanical embodiment (pdf)
Concepts to be worked on:
  • embodied representation
  • robotic embodiment
  • subsumption architecture
  • intelligence without representation
  • Umwelt
Peter, Márius Brooks, R.A. (1991). Intelligence without representation. Artificial Intelligence 47, 139–159.
11. Nov 30 Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Embodiment & Situated Cognition: Cognitive semantics
Concepts to be worked on:
  • perceptual symbols
  • concepts and categories
  • image schemas & metaphors
  • neural evidence on embodiment
Endre, Peter, Igor Lakoff, G. (1987).Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things.Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press Preface and chap. 1 and 4
  • Lakoff, G. (1987).Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things.Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, Chap. 6: Radial categories. (about categories in Dyirbal language).
  • Lakoff, G., Johnson, M., 1980. Metaphors we live by.University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.
  • Gibbs, R. W., 2006. Embodiment and Cognitive Science. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Pecher, D., Zwaan, R. A. (Eds.), 2005. Grounding Cognition: The Role of Perception and Action in Memory, Language, and Thinking. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U. K.
  • Roy, D., 2005. A mechanistic model of three facets of meaning. In: de Vega, Glenberg & Graesser (eds), Symbols and Embodiment: Debates on Meaning and Cognition, Oxford University Press, 195-222.
  • Barsalou, L., 1999. Perceptual Symbol Systems. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 22, 1999, pp. 577-609 (only the target article, leave out the open peer commentary).
  • Love metaphors
  • Course on Cognitive Semantics and Cognitive Theories of Representation
  • Course on Grounded Cognition
-. Fri Dec 2, 15:00 (note unusual date/time) Informal meeting of MEiCogSci consortium partners, mobility opportunities presentations + Christmas market in downtown
12. Dec 7 Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Dynamical Systems
Concepts to be worked on:
  • evolution, emergence
  • dynamical system, state space, attractor
  • multi-agent system
  • artificial life
  • collective cognition
Endre, Márius, Igor van Gelder, T.: The Dynamical Hypothesis in Cognitive Science, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21, 615-665, 1997.
  • Pfeifer, R., Scheier, C., 1999. Understanding Intelligence. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Chap. 8, 9.
  • Gelder, T. J., 1999. Dynamic approaches to cognition. In: Wilson, R. A., Keil, F. C. (Eds.), The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 244–246.
  • Burian, J.: Kognice a informace In: Kvasnička V., Kelemen J., (eds.). Kognice a umělý život V. Slezská univerzita. Opava
  • Dynamical approaches to cognitive science, by Randall Beer.
  • ALife web at TU Košice
  • Creatures (artificial life program)
  • Farkaš, I.: Reciprocal causality between mind and brain from neuroscientific perspective (in Slovak). In J. Kelemen, V. Kvasnicka, J. Pospichal (Eds.), Cognition and artificial life V, Smolenice, Slovakia, pp. 117-124, 2005.
  • Kelemen, J., 1994. Strojovia a agenty. Archa, Bratislava.
13. Dec 14 Closing colloquium: Future and Ethical Aspects of Cognitive Science and AI Research

Supplementary literature

  • Silverman G., Friedenberg J. (2011): Cognitive science. An introduction to the study of mind. SAGE.
  • Thagard, P. (2005): Mind: Introduction to Cognitive Science, 2nd Edition. MIT Press.
  • Stainton, J.R (2006): Contemporary Debates in Cognitive Science. Wiley.
  • Bermúdez, J. L.(2014): Cognitive science. An introduction to the science of the mind. Cambridge University Press.

Assessment details


Before each session, a student should carefully read the article from the column Readings (Note: not Supplementary readings - these are optional) and formulate at least one discussion point or a question related to the chosen article. The discussion points should be sent to the mailing list at latest on Monday 14:00 before the respective session (or any time sooner). Please identify the topic you are reacting to in the subject of the e-mail (e.g. Readings_session2_...). The reading will be discussed class during the seminar. The evaluation will be based on their written discussion points.

Oral Presentations

Twice a semester, each students will individually pick a current cognitive science topic of their own interest, prepare a short (max. 10 min, approx. 3-5 slides) presentation. The topics should be new and interesting. Students are to send their slides to the teachers via e-mail prior to the day of presentation. Please send your slides in pdf format and name the file appropriately - e.g. ICS-minipres[N]-[your name/surname].pdf

Examples: False memories, Gut feelings, Mental time travel, Mind reading, Morning Morality Effect, Musical training, biligualism and EF, Neuromyths, Sensory deprivation, Targeted muscle reinnervation, Who are you, mom.


The students will write a scientific paper on a topic chosen from the list or their own. (The sign up for the topic is via email to the teacher - suggest three topics ordered by priority and wait for the teachers' approval). The paper should contain approximately 1000 words (excluding references). The focus will be on the content, structure and correct referencing (see the guidelines). Each student will receive one review by another student (peer review) and one by the teacher and is obliged to rework/improve the paper taking into account the reviews.

Examples 2010: Vplyv hudby na kognitívne schopnosti, Reasoning in every day life, 2011: Deep Belief Networks, Zrkadliace neuróny

Peer review

Each student will be assigned a paper of one of their colleagues to peer review. A review should contain a short abstract of the reviewed paper and the feedback to the writer. The feedback should emphasize the strenghts and weaknesses of the paper; the reviewer should suggest changes how to improve the paper (see the guidelines).

Group work & Colloquium

Students will be evaulated for their activity during the group work (Sept 27) and closing colloquium (Dec 14)

Integration reflection

Students will write a one-page personal reflection on two questions:

  1. What in their opinion connects all the cognitive paradigms together?
  2. What is their personal learning gain from this semester?

The reflections will be submitted to teachers via email (format doc(x) or pdf).


In order to gain extra points you can post blogposts to our cogsci blog Kognicia. Your posts should be short, yet informative and contain a link to a video or paper with further details. For this you can use your minipresentation topics and material. Please, first send your post to us as well (both M.T. and B.C.) via email for approval/consultation. In extreme cases other activities/assignments can be established on individual basis.