Introduction to Cognitive Science

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

Winter semester 2010/11

Lecturer: Mgr. Dana Retová., Centre for Cognitive Science, Dept. of Applied Informatics, room I-11, dana.retova(at)fmph(dot)uniba(dot)sk, homepage

TA: Mgr. Kristína Rebrová, Centre for Cognitive Science, Dept. of Applied Informatics, room I-11, kristina.rebrova(at)fmph(dot)uniba(dot)sk, homepage

Time/Place: Tuesday 11:30 - 14:00, room I-8, 3 hours weekly

Credits: 5

Indicative Content

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. The goal of this course is to provide the students with an overview of theories, methods and topics of cognitive science: representational paradigms, perception, memory, learning and reasoning, language and communication, emotional, embodied and collective cognition. Examples of computational models of the studied cognitive phenomena will be presented.


  1. Readings 25%
  2. Oral presentations 30%
  3. Paper 30%
  4. Review 8%
  5. Group work 7%

Final evaluation of assignments and grades


(The list of readings and other resources will be updated on the way.)

Session Date Topic Readings
1. Sept 28 Introduction: Resources, Methods, Sciences and History of Cognitive Science
  • Rybárová, D.: Definitions of cognitive science, in: Philosophical and Methodological Issues Concerning Fodor's Theory of Modularity in the Language Domain. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Slovak Academy of Sciences. Bratislava, 2003.
  • Pfeifer, R., Scheier, C., 1999. Understanding Intelligence. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Chap. 1.

2. Oct 5 Representational Theory of Mind
Multiple Realizability
3. Oct 13
Experimental group work with prof. Markus Peschl (Vienna)

no reading

4. Oct 19

Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Classical (computationalism)

Concepts to be worked on:

  • symbolic representation of the world
  • symbol grounding
  • syntax, semantics,
  • Physical Symbol Systems Hypothesis (PSSH)
  • algorithm,
  • computation + Turing machine,
  • Chinese Room argument

5. Oct 26

Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Connectionism & Neural Computation

Concepts to be worked on:

  • symbolic versus subsymbolic representation
  • distributed representation
  • gradedness
  • graceful degradation
  • robustness
  • feedback
  • neural architecture & knowledge
  • Kvasnička, V., Pospíchal, J., 2002. Konekcionizmus a modelovanie kognitívnych procesov [Connectionism and modeling of cognitive processes]. In: Rybár, J., Beňušková, L., Kvasnička, V. (Eds.), Kognitívne vedy. Kalligram, Bratislava, pp. 257–345.
  • I. Farkaš: Konekcionistické modelovanie jazyka. Chapter in book: J. Rybar, V. Kvasnicka, I. Farkas (Eds.), Jazyk a kognícia, Kalligram, Bratislava, pp. 262-305, 2005.
  • Pfeifer, R., Scheier, C., 1999. Understanding Intelligence. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Chap. 5.
  • Fodor J. A. and Pylyshyn Z. W.: Connectionism and Cognitive Architecture: A Critical Analysis. In: Connections and symbols. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 3–71. 1988.

6. Nov 9

Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Embodiment & Situated Cognition: Basic Concepts

Concepts to be worked on:

  • embodied representation
  • subsumption architecture
  • intelligence without representation
  • Umwelt
  • Pfeifer, R., Scheier, C., 1999. Understanding Intelligence. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Chap. 4., 7.
  • Brooks, R.A. (1991). Intelligence without representation. Artificial Intelligence 47, 139–159.
  • Rambusch, J. & Ziemke T. (2005). The role of embodiment in situated learning. In:  Bara, B.G., Barsalou, L., and Bucciarelli, M. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 27th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 1803-1808. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
7. Nov 16

Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Embodiment & Situated Cognition: Cognitive semantics

Concepts to be worked on:

  • concepts and categories
  • image schemas & metaphors
  • brain-related semantics
  • Lakoff, G.: Ženy, oheň a nebezpečné věci. TRIÁDA, 2006.
  • 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.

8. Nov 23

Cognitive Science Paradigms:
Dynamical Systems, Collective Cognition

Concepts to be worked on:

  • dynamical system
  • state space
  • attractor
  • emergence
  • adaptation
  • self organisation
  • interaction / coupling
  • Agent
  • multi-agent system
  • cultural cognition
  • enactment
  • Artificial Life
  • 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.

9. Nov 30 Do we need symbols?
10. Dec 7 Closing colloquium: Future and Ethical Aspects of Cognitive Science and AI Research
11. Dec ?
(exact time will be supplied later)
Informal meeting with Vienna MEiCogSci students + Christmas market in downtown (voluntary)

Other resources:

Assessment details


Before each session, a student should carefully read at least one article from the related group of readings above the line(optional supplementary readings are below the line) and make up at least one question or a discussion point related to the chosen article. The discussion points should be sent to the mailing list I C S 2 0 1 0 (at) l i s t s . d a i . f m p h . u n i b a . s k before the respective session. Please identify the topic you are reacting to in the subject of the e-mail (e.g. Session 2 - Readings).

Oral Presentations

Students will work individually on the topics of their own interest. Students should prepare a 2-3min presentation of a current topic in Cognitive Science for each of the session.


Students will choose a topic of their own interest and consult their choice with the teacher. The paper should contain around 2000 words. The focus will be on the content, structure and correct referencing. Deadlines will be provided.


Each student will receive one review by another student and one by the teacher. Reviews 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.

Group work & Colloquium

Students will be evaulated for their activity during the group work (Oct 13)