Department of Cognitive Science

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To plan your course schedule, please check the Searchable Schedule of Classes at the registrar’s website and consult Professor William Deal, chair of the department, who can be reached at

COGS 101, 201, 102, and 202 are all entry-level and can be taken in any order. It is commonly the case that undergraduate cogsci majors take 101 and 201 simultaneously in the Fall and 102 & 202 simultaneously in the Spring, but this is not a required order.


Schedule for Summmer 2017

COGS 322. Human Learning and the Brain. Kuemerle. M W F 9:00-11:30am. Clapp Hall 201.


Schedule for Fall 2017

COGS 101. Introduction to Cognitive Science. Parrill. T Th 1:00-2:15pm. To Be Scheduled.

COGS 201: Human Cognition in Evolution and Development. Tobin. T Th 2:30-3:45pm. To Be Scheduled.

COGS 205: Cognition and Design. Oakley. T Th 1:00-2:15pm. Crawford Hall 618.

COGS 206/406: Theory of Cognitive Linguistics, I. Oakley. T Th 10:00-11:15am. Crawford Hall 618.

COGS 215: Words and Mind. Tobin. T Th 11:30AM-12:45pm. Crawford Hall 618

COGS 308/408: Advanced Research Workshop I. Parrill. T 2:30-5:00pm. Crawford 618. Enrollment in 308 is by instructor permission only and will be restricted to undergraduates who plan to do the COGS Honors Program. Enrollment in the undergraduate section will be limited to about 5 students.

COGS 311: Mind and Media. Turner. M 5:30-8:00pm. Crawford Hall 618

COGS 322: Human Learning and the Brain. Kuemerle. T Th 10:00-11:15am. To Be Scheduled.

COGS 390: Introduction to General Semiotics. Berindeanu. M W F 10:35-11:25am. Crawford Hall 618.


Course descriptions

COGS 101 Introduction to Cognitive Science, 3 credits. A survey of major theories and facts about human cognition (including computational and engineering theories), along with an introduction to the kinds of methodologies available to modern cognitive science.

COGS 102 Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience, 3 credits. A survey of the fundamental methods, findings, and theories that attempt to understand the human mind from a neuroscientific standpoint. It provides the student with background knowledge of brain processes underlying such psychological phenomena as consciousness, sensation, perception, thought, language, and voluntary action. The approach of this course is cross-disciplinary, including theories and data from clinical and experimental neuropsychology, brain imaging, neuro-electric and neuro-magnetic brain activity, neuro-linguistics, and behavioral neuroscience, among others. (“Cognitive Neuroscience . . .will increasingly come to represent the central focus of all Neurosciences in the 21st century.” —Eric R. Kandel, M.D., Nobel Laureate.)

Interested in cognitive neuroscience? Read this page to learn more about neuroscience at CWRU.

COGS 201. Human Cognition in Evolution and Development, 3 credits. The unfolding of cognitive structures and functions over time, in both the deep temporal perspective of evolution (measured across many lifetimes) and the shorter one of development (measured within single lifetimes). The approach of the course is cross-disciplinary, including approaches that come from anthropology, archaeology, philosophy, computing science, comparative psychology, primatology, and comparative linguistics, among others. For students familiar with basic research and theory in cognitive science.

COGS 202. Cognition and Culture (formerly, Human Cognition Viewed from a Cultural Perspective), 3 credits. A survey of the fundamental methods, findings, and theories that attempt to understand the growth and evolution of cognition from a social science or humanistic standpoint. The course covers theories of human cultural evolution and change, of the relationship between the cognizing individual and larger social-cognitive structures, and of such phenomena as distributed networks, cooperative mental work, and the phenomenology of human experience.

COGS 205. Cognition and Design, 3 credits. Urbanism is design; architecture is design; of course, the aesthetic shaping of artifacts (such as computers, cars, and coffee machines) is design. Configuring surfaces, volumes, and portions of space in special ways, creating and changing formats for things and places that allow cultural practices to unfold while delimiting them, are essential “designing” endeavors of human civilization and are, necessarily, activities based on the cognitive capacities and constraints of our species. We “cognize” the human world in terms and frames of “designed” surroundings. Design is a basic expressive activity, by which we interact with our artificial and natural surroundings and create “interfaces” between mind and reality, thus upholding an interpretable world. Landscapes and cityscapes, work spaces of all sorts, buildings and parks, exteriors and interiors of homes, factories, institutions, and temples; furniture, artifacts such as machines, tools, weapons, symbolic objects, even the configuration (“building”) of our own bodies, are design. An inquiry into cultural cognition, aiming to understand how humans as socio-cultural beings think and feel, therefore needs to explore this dimension of spatial expressivity and to acknowledge it as a constitutive fact of human meaning production; it needs to study the aesthetic and pragmatic, political and historical, philosophical and religious, and simply everyday practical, semiotic aspects of this basic form of human creativity. This course will focus on spatial expressivity – design – in several primary keys and scales, including design for learning; design for verbal and technical communication, interaction, and commerce; design for expressions of authority and deliberation; and design for emotional display.

COGS 206. Theory of Cognitive Linguistics, I. 3 credits. This course is both an exposure to the technical field of cognitive linguistics—suitable in itself as part of a liberal education—and a gateway to advanced study of cognitive linguistics, leading to special topics and capstone experiences inside the cognitive science major. This course focuses on the methods that have been developed in cognitive linguistics in the last ten to twenty years for the study of grammar, semantics, and their relations to cognition. Click here for details.

COGS 215. Words and Mind. 3 credits. There is something fascinating and special about words. They are the aspect of language that everyone knows about and pays attention to–and every academic discipline with an interest in language has something to say about them! The sheer number of words known by every speaker of any human language is quite vast (and the exact number is a mystery). In this class we will learn about words in all their aspects, and see what the wide weirdness of words can help us understand about the human mind. Subjects covered include the question of what makes a word (is “ouch” a word? “ain’t”?); word origins; taboo words; words and memory; word boundaries; and word games, puns, and puzzles.

COGS 272. Morality and Mind, 3 credits. Recent research in cognitive science challenges ethical perspectives founded on the assumption that rationality is key to moral knowledge or that morality is the product of divine revelation. Bedrock moral concepts like free will, rights, and moral agency also have been questioned. In light of such critiques, how can we best understand moral philosophy and religious ethics? Is ethics primarily informed by nature or by culture? Or is ethics informed by both? This course examines 1) ways in which cognitive science—and related fields such as evolutionary biology—impact traditional moral perspectives, and 2) how the study of moral philosophy and comparative ethics forces reconsideration of broad cognitive science theories about the nature of ethics. The course examines the concept of free will as a case study in applying these interpretive viewpoints. Interdisciplinary readings include literature from moral philosophy, religious ethics, cognitive science, and evolutionary biology.

COGS 301/401. Special Topics in Cognitive Science, 3 credits. This course offers instructors the opportunity to examine a more specialized topic. Topics vary from year to year. 

  • Topic for Fall 2016: Social Cognition and the Brain

    • Description: Human beings develop intricate means of presenting themselves to others; of representing others as friends, enemies, or strangers; of making quick assessments of any situation based on the attribution of intentions; of sizing up the Other via symbols and other shibboleths; and of the disposition and ability to empathize and sympathize with the emotional states of others for specific purposes. In recent years, the role of culture and cultural diversity has come to play a significant role in thinking about social cognition and the evolution of sociality. It is likewise an unfortunate fact that many human beings lack many of the means, abilities, and dispositions to connect with one another easily and without extensive and explicit tutelage. Such clinical populations (e.g., autistics schizophrenia, etc.) are of considerable interest because of their promise as a contrastive model of typicality. This course will focus on these aspects of sociality both at the level of the interpersonal and personal (cognitive and phenomenological) and the sub-personal (neuronscientific).

COGS 302 Methods and New Theories in Cognitive Science, 3 credits. A SAGES departmental seminar open to advanced undergraduate students. At this point, you have taken the required core courses for the cognitive science major. Your brain has been crammed with information. Now it is time to reflect on that information. This course takes look at the discipline< of cognitive science by exploring the methods cognitive scientists use in their research. We will discuss how different methods reflect different approaches and traditions of thought and how they provide different answers to particular questions. We will also spend much of the class talking about the process of translating research into writing. We will discuss the mechanics of scientific writing, but we will also talk about how different kinds of writing reflect the many different methods used in cognitive science. CAN BE COUNTED AS A SAGES DEPARTMENTAL SEMINAR.

COGS 303 Current Controversies in Cognitive Science, 3 credits. A SAGES departmental seminar open to advanced undergraduate students. This course takes a look at the discipline of cognitive science by exploring the current controversies that impact cognitive scientists in their research. We will discuss how different controversies effect different approaches and traditions of thought and how they elicit different answers to particular questions. We will also discuss the process of translating research into writing and talk about how different kinds of writing reflect the many different controversial issues presented in cognitive science. CAN BE COUNTED AS A SAGES DEPARTMENTAL SEMINAR.

COGS 304/404 Conceptual Integration, 3 credits. Conceptual Integration, otherwise known as “blending,” is a defining feature of higher-order human cognition, indispensable for all behaviors typically taken as distinctive to human beings. This course presents the cognitive mechanisms of conceptual integration, the constraints on its operation, and its deployment and expression in a range of human behaviors such as learning, invention, mathematical and scientific discovery, language, art, music, gesture, social understanding, institutional performance, reasoning, decision, judgment, choice, design, and engineering. A student in the class will work on an individual research project in any of a variety of fields, including engineering (e.g., designing with blends), computer science, the arts, the humanities, the social sciences, cognitive neuroscience, and linguistics. Click here for details.

COGS 307 Theory of Cognitive Linguistics, II, 3 credits. Theory and practice of cognitive linguistics. 307/407 is self-contained and independent of 206/406. 307/407 & 206/406 can be taken in either order. Request consent of instructor through SIS. For a description of the course during Spring 2014, click here. CAN BE COUNTED AS A SAGES DEPARTMENTAL SEMINAR.

COGS 310/410 (xlist RLGN 310/410). Cognitive Science of Religion, 3 credits. This course introduces theories and methods in the cognitive science of religion. Particular emphasis is placed on applying cognitive scientific concepts and theories to such religious issues as belief in deities, religious ritual, and morality. We examine such topics as the relationship of religious studies to evolution and cognition, cognitive theories of religious ritual, anthropomorphism and religious representation, religion as an evolutionary adaptation, and cognitive semantics and religious language. Course work includes student-led discussions, a research-intensive essay on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor, and presentation of research findings to the class. Course readings are taken from the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences.

COGS 311/411. Mind and Media, 3 credits.  An introduction to the study of mind and media, including the study of multimodal communication. This course investigates patterns of human cognition that are ancient to human beings and upon which media have converged for powerful, immersive effect. The cognitive processes studied include perception, sensation, imagination, joint attention, narrative conception, simulation, dreaming, identity construction, imaginative play, and implicit learning. Students engage in hands-on media analysis to study how basic human mental operations are used in media to achieve a variety of effects. Students will be given access to a private website of instructions, readings, and materials for the course, and will be introduced to a range of vast, rich, searchable databases of media. Students will have ample opportunity to do research inside such databases. CAN BE COUNTED AS A SAGES DEPARTMENTAL SEMINAR.

COGS 313/413 Special Topics in Cognitive Linguistics, 3 credits. This course offers instructors the opportunity to examine a more specialized topic. Topics will vary from year to year.

COGS 315/415 Mental Space Theory, 3 credits. Mental Space Theory is a foundation field of cognitive science. It provides a framework for analyzing the dynamic construction of meaning during thought and action. As such, it is used in the analyses of a very wide range of human higher-order cognitive performances, ranging from inferencing and decision to persuasion and communication to discovery and design. (Website for the course Mental Spaces .)

COGS 316/416 Decision-Making, 3 credits. This course is a topical introduction to decision-making, a major area of cognitive social science, with connections to economics, law, political science, business, policy, and related fields. Topics include game theory and rational calculation, equilibria, kinds of choice, heuristics, the role of affect in decision, framing, bounded rationality, mechanisms of choice, the role of social cognition in choice, concepts of self and other, and computer modeling of choice. The course also includes an introduction to the design of empirical behavioral research.

COGS 317/417 Cognitive Diversity, 3 credits. This course surveys research from cognitive science (psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, etc.) on the ways that different people think differently. We will consider dimensions such as sex, gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, bodily differences, cultural differences, and effects of speaking different languages. Students will choose the last two topics at the end of the semester (Different religions? Different ages? Whatever interests the class!).

COGS 319/419 Elements of Surprise, 3 credits. This course will connect research into the cognitive experiences of surprise and suspense with the ways people can create those experiences for each other–cooperatively and uncooperatively–in everyday interaction and in cultural products like jokes, architecture, music, written narratives, films, and games. Topics include predictions and expectations involved in perceiving and navigating the physical world, cognitive biases, timing in conversation, language processing, attention, perspective-taking, counterfactual thinking, the psychological structure of explanations, and the psychology of “fair play”.
Offered as COGS 319 and COGS 419.

COGS 322 Human Learning and the Brain, 3 credits. This course focuses on the question, “How does the human brain learn?”  Through assigned readings, extensive class discussions, and a major paper, each student will explore personal perspectives on learning.  Specific topics include, but are not limited to: the brain’s cycle of learning; neocortex structure and function; emotion and limbic brain; synapse dynamics and changes in learning; images in cognition; symbolic brain (language, mathematics, music); memory formation; and creative thought and brain mechanisms.  The major paper will be added to each student’s SAGES writing portfolio.  In addition, near the end of the semester, each student will make an oral presentation on a chosen topic.

COGS 324/424 Discourse and Cognition, 3 credits. This course explores discourse and interaction from a cognitive linguistic perspective, with special emphasis on mental spaces, conceptual integration, and cognitive grammar. Cognitive linguistics is a paradigm of language study that seeks to understand language structure, acquisition, and use as a function of embodied conceptualization. This means that it seeks to describe and explain language as a symbolic activity involving general cognitive processes, such as perception, attention, memory, categorization, framing and sensory-motor activities. Another burgeoning area of interest among cognitive linguists is social-cognition, gesture, and interaction. In each of these endeavors, the goal is to explain as much about language without having to posit autonomous and language-specific faculties.

COGS 325/425 Cognitive Approaches to Literature, 3 credits. Satisfies the GER requirement for Arts & Humanities: Literature and Language. This course approaches literature as a window into language, in which cognition is characterized by the same imaging and imaginary properties as artistic literature. It is an attempt to identify and analyze procedures as aesthetically interesting and generally relevant forms of human thinking, feeling, imagining, fantasizing, and conceptualizing. The course introduces current theories of literature in relation to language and mind, and it presents and discusses practical applications in critical reading and text analysis, using examples from modern literature in the main genres.

COGS 326/426 Cognitive Approaches to Music, 3 credits. This course will study the ways in which the presence of music relates to cognition and the semiotics of inter-subjective communication at large–the emergence of language, gesture, and symbolization of time. Topics of interests include: the ways that specific works of musical art invite semantic interpretation; how intelligible musical structure relates to meaning; how musical activities correspond to brain activity; and how music relates to and/or induces emotion. Prerequisites: COGS 101, COGS 202, or permission of the instructor.

COGS 327/427 Gesture in Communication and Cognition, 3 credits. Most people never notice that when they are talking, they’re also gesturing. Why do we produce these gestures? What’s their function? What can studying them tell us about the human mind? This course tackles these questions with a survey of scientific research on gesture. We explore topics such as the role gesture plays in communication, whether gestures help us think, and the neuroscience of gesture. Students gain hands-on experience with data collection and analysis by carrying out a research project. COUNTS AS A SAGES DEPARTMENTAL SEMINAR.

COGS 328 Cognition and Visual Aesthetic Experience, 3 credits. Human cognition and perception achieve their most sophisticated levels in the cognition and perception of art works. Understanding the art-creating and art-perceiving mind is a key to understanding the human mind. This course is offered as a reciprocal exchange between new research on the mind/brain and existing theories of visual aesthetics. The material covered links a traditional approach to philosophical aesthetics with a most up-to-date research on visual perception and brain functioning. Throughout the course a variety of examples from the history of art, exemplifying diverse traditions, artists and periods will be used to supplement the theories discussed.

COGS 329 Performance and Embodied Mind, 3 credits.  In the past twenty years cognitive scientists working in neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, and related fields have made great progress in understanding perception, empathy, the human mind’s sense of space and movement, emotions, meaning-making, and many other cognitive areas that are crucial to producing, enacting, and responding to performances on stage. This course will look at ways of incorporating many of the insights of cognitive science into the existing work of theatre and performance scholarship. The course will thus link a more traditional approach to the body in theatre and dance studies, where it has commonly been considered one of the main means of communication, to a most up-to-date research on embodied cognition. Observation of live and pre-recorded dance and theatre performances will regularly be used to supplement the theoretical discussion.

COGS 352/452. Language, Cognition, and Religion. This course utilizes theoretical approaches found in cognitive semantics—a branch of cognitive linguistics—to study the conceptual structures and meanings of religious language. Cognitive semantics, guided by the notion that conceptual structures are embodied, examines the relationship between conceptual systems and the construction of meaning. We consider such ideas as conceptual metaphor theory, conceptual blending, image schemas, cross-domain mappings, metonymy, mental spaces, and idealized cognitive models. We apply these ideas to selected Christian, Buddhist, and Chinese religious texts in order to understand ways in which religious language categorizes and conceptualizes the world. We examine both the universality of cognitive linguistic processes and the culturally specific metaphors, conceptual blends, image schemas, and other cognitive operations that particular texts and traditions utilize.

COGS 363 Philosophy and Social Neuroscience. A philosophical examination of recent research in human cognition and emotion at the intersection of the social sciences and neurological sciences. The course provides the student with background knowledge of brain processes underlying such social and cultural phenomena as bonding, aggression, imitation, mind-attribution, language, sexual behavior, moral action, and creativity. The approach of this course is at once scientific (comparing methods, findings and questions as they arise in clinical and experimental neuropsychology, brain imaging, neuro-linguistics, and behavioral neuroscience) and humanistic, asking critical questions about the nature and methods of a science of cognition, and surveying moral responses from a neurologic and philosophic perspective.

COGS 365 Advanced Topics in Cognitive Neuroscience, 3 credits. This course focuses on specific areas of research in cognitive neuroscience in some depth. The first half of the semester covers basics and fundamental research areas (e.g. perception, attention) and examines the (sometimes controversial) theoretical issue of what cognitive neuroscience techniques tell us about the mind. The second half of the semester is dedicated to examining selected research topics of interest to students. Students research and write “grant proposals” for cognitive neuroscience experiments. The class culminates with students and invited faculty simulating a funding panel, and deciding which grants to “fund” from a limited budget. Pre-requisites: COGS102 or permission of chair.

COGS 366 Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 3 credits. fMRI is the workhorse of cognitive neuroscience research. This course will take an in-depth look at this methodology, including hands on experience analyzing imaging data. The course will address the following issues: How do MRI and fMRI work? What does fMRI actually measure and how does that relate to cognition? What are the standard steps involved in processing and analyzing fMRI data? What are the data quality / methodological issues? How can we use mathematical and computational tools to manipulate, query and visualize fMRI data to help answer specific questions? The course culminates in the production of a report of a novel analysis of imaging data that the students have performed (in small groups), including a broader description of what that analysis reveals about the neural basis of cognition. Prerequisites: COGS102 and COGS365 or permission of instructor.

COGS 378 Computational Neuroscience, 3 credits. Computer simulations and mathematical analysis of neurons and neural circuits, and the computational properties of nervous systems. Students are taught a range of models for neurons and neural circuits, and are asked to implement and explore the computational and dynamic properties of these models. The course introduces students to dynamical systems theory for the analysis of neurons and neural circuits, as well as a cable theory, passive and active compartmental modeling, numerical integration methods, models of plasticity and learning, models of brain systems, and their relationship to artificial and neural networks. Term project required. Prerequisites: MATH 223 & MATH 224 or BIOL 300 & BIOL 306, or consent of instructor.

COGS 390. Introduction to General Semiotics I, 3 credits. General Semiotics is the study of meaning and types of signs conveying meaning. It is a central part of cognitive semiotics, or ‘high level’ cognitive semantics. This discipline is typically taught in departments of linguistics, cognitive science, philosophy, or cultural studies. The domain of semiotics is in fact widely intersecting with other disciplines studying meaning production (general linguistics, philosophy, neuroscience, anthropology, music,
literature, architecture, design, and the arts).  This course introduces to the main modern ideas and findings in the field of signified meaning: semiology, structural semantics, American semiotics, diagram theory, and cognitive semiotics.  (The course has a counterpart in COGS/WLIT 391.)

COGS/WLIT 391 Introduction to Text Semiotics, 3 credits. Introduction to Text Semiotics addresses both students of Literature and students in Cognitive Science. Most of the authors included in the reading list extend their linguistic approach towards fields that intersect literature, psychology, philosophy, aesthetics, and anthropology.
The scholarly traditions of text analysis and structural theory of meaning, including authors from classical formalism, structuralism, structural semiotics, and new criticism will be connected to cognitive theories of meaning construction in text, discourse, and cultural expressions in general. The focus of this course, taught as a seminar, is on empirical studies, specific text analyses, discourse analyses, speech act analyses, and other studies of speech, writing, and uses of language in cultural contexts.
This course thus introduces to a study of literature and cultural expressions based on cognitive science and modern semiotics – the new view that has be coined Cognitive Semiotics.

COGS 397 Capstone Research in Cognitive Science, 3 credits. The Capstone in Cognitive Science involves guided laboratory, empirical, theoretical, or library research, or service work with a research aspect, under the direction of a Cognitive Science faculty member who serves as Sponsor. The capstone work may be carried out within the Department of Cognitive Science or within an affiliated department or across departments and units. The capstone may be taken only one semester during the student’s academic career. A permit is required to take the course. The student’s Cognitive Science Sponsor must approve a written report and submit it to the chair of the Department before credit can be granted. A public presentation is also required. Contact the chair of the department for further information.

The Cognitive Science Student Organization often hosts an info session about doing a capstone in COGS.

COGS 399/499 Independent Study, 1-3 credits. Students propose special projects. Departmental approval of both topic and method of evaluation is required.

COGS 406 Theory of Cognitive Linguistics I, 3 credits. The first course in a two-course sequence designed to provide an introduction to cognitive linguistics at the M.A. level. It supports student work in COGS 408 and 409, the Workshop courses. This course begins with a discussion of major theoretical questions in linguistics. We first ask how these questions have been approached within theoretical frameworks which view language and general cognition as being separate from one another. The course then focuses on the methods that have been developed in cognitive linguistics in the last ten to twenty years for the study of phonology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. We ask how approaches that relate language to general cognitive processes (perception, memory, categorization, etc.) can lead to a deeper understanding both of language and of the human mind.

COGS 407 Theory of Cognitive Linguistics II, 3 credits. This course covers contemporary theory in cognitive linguistics in greater detail and supports student work in COGS 408 and 409, the Workshop courses.

COGS 308/408 Advanced Research Workshop I, 3 credits. This course is an advanced research workshop for undergraduates and MA students. The workshop involves development of research topics (theoretical or empirical), and working on them with the input of other workshop members to produce final papers. Note: Enrollment in 308 is by instructor permission only, will be restricted to students who plan to do the COGS Honors Program. Enrollment will be limited to about 5 students. The Honors program is not currently approved, so more information will be provided when it is.

COGS 309/409 Advanced Research Workshop II, 3 credits. This course is an advanced research workshop for undergraduates and MA students. The workshop involves development of research topics (theoretical or empirical), and working on them with the input of other workshop members to produce final papers. MA students in cognitive linguistics will typically take this course as the second part of a two-part sequence. Note: Enrollment in 309 is by instructor permission only, will be restricted to students who plan to do the COGS Honors Program. Enrollment will be limited to about 5 students. The Honors program is not currently approved, so more information will be provided when it is.


Page last modified: April 14, 2017