Introduction to Cognitive Science
Master's Program in Cognitive Science, Dept. of Applied Informatics, Faculty of Mathematics, Physics, and Informatics, Comenius University in Bratislava

Time/Place: Winter Semester 2020/21, Tuesday 9:50-12:15, room I-9 (Corona-related note: The classes will take a physical/hybrid form until further notice. If you cannot be present in class and would like to participate online, please get in touch with the lecturer beforehand to arrange the details).

Credits: 5

doc. RNDr. Martin Takáč, PhD., Centre for Cognitive Science, Dept. of Applied Informatics, room I-37,, MT's homepage
Mgr. Matej Fandl, Centre for Cognitive Science, Dept. of Applied Informatics, room I-5, matej.fandl(at)

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: until Sunday 23:59 before the respective lecture (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).

Written assignments:
paper topic selection: 10.11.2020
paper first version: 13.12.2020 midnight
paper peer-review: 10.1.2021 midnight
paper final version: 31.1.2021 midnight
integration reflection: 7.2.2021 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

Indicative course shedule. Some details might change during the semester.

Session Date Topic Presentation Readings Supplementary
1. Sept 22 Information meeting, preliminaries
2. Sept 28 (!)
Experimental group work (online workshop) with prof. Markus Peschl (Vienna) no reading, send us your personal learning goal Note unusual date/time
3. Oct 6 Introduction: Resources, Methods, Sciences and History of Cognitive Science. Assignments and preliminaries workshop
(Science practice,
How to search for literature)
Thagard, P., 2005. Being interdisciplinary: Trading zones in cognitive science. Interdisciplinary collaboration: An emerging cognitive science, pp.317-339. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
4. Oct 13 Philosophy of Mind, Functionalism
Concepts to work on:
  • representational theory of mind
  • functionalism
  • multiple realizability
  • Turing test
TBA Frankish K. The consciousness illusion. Aeon, 26. Sept 2019.
5. Oct 20 Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Concepts to work on:
  • Physical Symbol Systems Hypothesis
  • Turing machine
  • cognitive architecture
  • symbolic representation of the world
  • Symbol grounding problem
  • Chinese Room argument
TBA Harnad, S. The Symbol Grounding Problem. Physica D. 1990, 42: 335-346.
6. Oct 27 Neuroscience
Concepts to work on:
  • Experimental Approaches to Brain Functions
  • Brain Imaging Techniques
  • An Overview of the Nervous System
  • Specific aspects of visual perception
TBA 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.
7. Nov 3 Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Hybrid Systems

Concepts to work on:
  • symbolic versus subsymbolic
  • distributed representation
  • gradedness, robustness
  • graceful degradation
  • hybrid neural architecture
(How to write a paper)
Gatys, L. A., Ecker, A. S., & Bethge, M. (2015). A neural algorithm of artistic style. arXiv preprint arXiv:1508.06576.
  • Pfeifer R, Scheier C. Understanding intelligence. MIT press; 2001. Chap. 5.
  • Haykin S. Neural networks: a comprehensive foundation. Prentice Hall PTR; 1994
  • Fodor JA, Pylyshyn ZW. Connectionism and cognitive architecture: A critical analysis. Cognition. 1988 Mar 31;28(1):3-71.
  • Christiansen,M.H. & Chater, N. 2001. Connectionist psycholinguistics: Capturing the empirical data Trends in Cognitive Sciences 5, 82-88.
  • Wermter S. Hybrid neural systems. Springer Science & Business Media; 2000 Mar 29. Chap. 1
  • Doumas L.A., Hummel J.E. Computational models of higher cognition. In The Oxford handbook of thinking and reasoning 2012 Apr 19 (Vol. 19). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • 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.
  • Nettalk sounds: track 1, track 2, track 3
8. Nov 10 Computational Modeling
Concepts to work on:
  • hypotheses, data, model, simulation
  • model parameters
  • model behaviour and model fit
  • simplification
  • proof-of-concept
  • validation and verification
TBA Dörner, D., Bamberg, D., and Mayer, M. A Simulation of Cognitive and Emotional Effects of Overcrowding. Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Cognitive Modeling ICCM. 2006, 92-99.
Nov 17 No class (state holiday)!
9. Nov 24 Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Embodiment & Situated Cognition:
Concepts to work on:
  • perceptual symbols
  • concepts and categories, prototype theory
  • image schemas & metaphors
  • empirical evidence for embodied cognition
TBA Lakoff, G. (1987).Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things.Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press Preface and chap. 1 and 4
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Courses (2nd yr.) Cognitive Semantics and Cognitive Theories of Representation and Grounded Cognition
10. Dec 1 Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Dynamical Systems
Concepts to work on:
  • dynamical system, state space, phase portrait, stability, attractor
  • homeostasis, negative/positive feedback, coupling
  • self-organisation, emergence
  • collective cognition
TBA Beer, R. D. (2000): Dynamical approaches to cognitive science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4(3), 91-99.
11. Dec 8 Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Enactive Approach
Concepts to work on:
  • autopoiesis
  • functional circle
  • Umwelt
  • enaction, sense-making
TBA Di Paolo, E. A., Rohde, M., De Jaegher, H: Horizons for the enactive mind: Values, social interaction, and play. In J. Stewart, O. Gapenne, E. A. Di Paolo (Eds.), Enaction: Towards a new paradigm for cognitive science. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2010. (excerpt: Sec. 2.1-2.2)
  • Thompson, E. (2007). Mind in life: Biology, phenomenology, and the sciences of mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT.
  • Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., Rosch, E. (1991). The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT.
  • Humberto R. Maturana, Francisco J. Varela: The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Shambala, 1992.
  • Ziemke, T.: Rethinking Grounding In: Riegler, Peschl & von Stein (eds.) Understanding Representation in the Cognitive Sciences (pp. 177-190). Plenum Press: New York, 1999.
12. Dec 15 Closing colloquium: Future and Ethical Aspects of Cognitive Science and AI Research Wu, X. and Zhang, X. Automated Inference on Criminality using Face Images. 2016. arXiv:1611.04135v2

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.
  • Bechtel, W., Graham, G., & Balota, D. A. (Eds.). (1998). A companion to cognitive science. Oxford: Blackwell.

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 overal length of the discussion points and questions should not exceed 750 characters. The discussion points should be entered into the google doc ICS2020 not later than on Sunday 23:59 before the respective session.

Mini 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. 5-7 slides) presentation. The topics should be new and interesting and supported by existing research (scientific paper(s) listed in references). Students are to send their slides to the teachers via e-mail prior to the day of presentation. Please 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. Since the peer review should be anonymous please do not write your name in the first version of your paper.

Examples: Drugs of our brain (Xenia Daniela Poslon, 2016), Soft robotics (Matúš Štefek, 2015), Do we choose our mates consciously? (Milan Mitka, 2014)

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 28) and closing colloquium (Dec 15)

Personal learning goal

Think about what would you like to achieve in this course. Set up a goal in concrete testable terms, so that at the end of the semester you'll be able to evaluate whether you achieved it. Send us your goal by email by Monday 28 Sept 23:59,

Integration reflection

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

  1. How do you make sense of and connect together various lectures of this course? What is the core message you are taking home?
  2. How do you connect what you have learned here to your previous knowledge and professional background/experience?
  3. Reflect on yourself and the learning process you went through. Have you fulfilled your personal learning goal? Has anything changed in you? Any beliefes/ideas you dropped or acquired? What is your personal learning gain from this semester?

This is not to be a standard scientific essay with references, but an informal reflective personal statement. Do not write clichés, be personal and honest. The reflections should be submitted to teachers via email (document or pdf).