Introducing Cognitive Science

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

By: Johan Jeson


Cognitive Science is an interdisciplinary field that spans across various domains related to science & engineering.


The brain is a marvelous creation adjoined by different lobes that carry out distinct functions to direct humans as they go through each day. But what seems to be surreal is the fact that the brain has so many processes, one couldn’t identify which process belongs to which part of the brain… That’s where cognitive science comes into the picture.


Cognitive science is the scientific study of the human mind that incorporates methods and designs from various fields like psychology, neuroscience, computer science, anthropology, linguistics, and philosophy [1]. It’s a relatively new field of study that emerged from a research program conducted in 1975. The revelation of this novel study was due to the development of digital computers and the ideas of the American linguist Noam Chomsky [2].


 At its core, cognitive science examines human intelligence and cognition. A plethora of techniques are deployed from mathematical models to behavioral as well as biological reports when studying the functions of the human mind. Cognitive Scientists analyze language, perception, memory, attention, reasoning, and emotion so that they can understand the complexity of human beings that shape different cultures. From a philosophical standpoint, cognitive science is a field that is filled with intriguing questions about the mind and its operations. One of the most complex questions of all time has been associated with human thinking and response [3].


Cognitive science research pivots around mental strategies that are documented as and when individuals solve diverse and unique problems. A relevant example is when students take IQ Tests to measure their intelligence. Scientists will record the results in their observational study and compare it with each student’s learning atmosphere and social life. They might ask a few personal questions at the beginning of the test to determine what factors affect the student’s intelligence (such as family income, family size, location of residence, type of school). Such studies then go on to compare different individuals and their test scores to figure out connections between the environment and the students’ intelligence.


Most research data has been collected from students who pursue certain streams of study such as physics or mathematics. Researchers study the retrieval of knowledge and the development of understanding so that they can compile information and present it to the scientific community. Cognitive science enables scientists to record the transformation of raw data into factual information. Data that has been gathered from other sources are processed and converted into sensible and relevant pieces of information. All this takes place within human brains, where a million neurons click within milliseconds to store and retrieve small pieces of notes that form larger chunks of information. Cognitive science has witnessed tremendous success over the years in conceptualizing the limits of human understanding and predicting its adaptability in foreign environments. However, since the onset of technological advancements, cognitive science has played a crucial role in the evolution of human intelligence and machine learning.


Artificial Intelligence is closely associated with cognitive science since it involves the study of cognitive phenomena in machines. AI has always strived to integrate human intelligence and machine processing so that computers can be more accurate and reliable. Computational modeling and online simulations stemmed out of cognitive science principles that explain the significance of intelligence. Deep learning, Machine learning, and AI were heavily influenced by the theories of brain processing and perceptual analysis. Such domains of study hold roots in cognitive science. From smartphones to face recognition systems, intelligence has been at the forefront of innovation, driving markets and industries to growth and progress.


A recent report by MIT talked about their successful research project that developed a model which could help predict if patients who are at risk of Alzheimer’s disease will experience a cognitive decline due to the disease, by predicting their cognition test scores up to two years into the future. Such a model could be used to improve the selection of candidate drugs and participant groups for clinical tests. It would also notify patients about their rapid cognitive decline in the near future so that they can prepare themselves for such a scenario [4].


Healthcare sectors and business ventures have benefited from these groundbreaking inventions. This wouldn’t have been possible if cognitive science was absent. The future of cognitive science holds many opportunities for young explorers who want to unveil the hidden mysteries of neural connections and human intelligence. As technology keeps disrupting the old and building the new, intelligence will play a key role in the sustenance of such technologies. Certainly, cognitive science is not going to diminish anytime soon!


Citations

[1] Cognitive Science. (n.d.). Retrieved August 03, 2019, from https://bcs.mit.edu/research/cognitive-science

[2] Direct, S. (n.d.). Cognitive Science. Retrieved August 03, 2019, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/cognitive-science

[3] Davelaar, E. J. (2010, March 29). Cognitive science - future challenges of an interdisciplinary field. Retrieved August 04, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3153739/

[4] Daily, S. (2019, August 02). Model predicts cognitive decline due to Alzheimer's, up to two years out. Retrieved August 04, 2019, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190802110036.htm

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