Unlike other science departments that focus on specific fields, cognitive science is a relatively new branch of study that has serious implications in almost every aspect of our lives. Cognitive science is, in short, the interdisciplinary study of how information about our inner, experiential world and outer, objective world is perceived and processed in the brain. Cognitive science covers fields as various as neuroscience, artificial intelligence, philosophy, linguistics, sociology, anthropology, and education.
To get a better idea of what the exciting field of cognitive science has to offer, here are a few lectures to get you started.
1. The Uniqueness of the Human Brain
This lecture is presented through the Almaden Institute Conference on Cognitive Computing. The conference has been made possible by IBM Research. In this lecture, Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran, an eminent neurologist, discusses aspects of the human brain that make it incredibly unique, like phantom limbs and synesthesia.
2. Intelligence, Cognitive Reflection, and Decision Making
In this fascinating lecture, Dr. Shane Frederick demonstrates with a Cognitive Reflection Test the degrees to which certain people are more disposed to taking risks. Frederick describes the test he formulated and the results he found about risk attitudes and decision-making.
Dr. Douglas Hofstadter, an American academic most widely known for his Pulitzer- Prize winning book, “Godel, Escher, and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid”, delivers a lecture on the function of analogy-making in cognition. He draws on various, everyday examples and demonstrates how analogies are absolutely critical in the process of thinking and perceiving the world.
This lecture, presented by the University of Arizona, is given by Dr. LouAnn Gerkin, a professor of psychology and director of the school’s Cognitive Science department. In this lecture, Gerkin discusses the developing mind of a child and how it uses very basic information to form models and make guesses about how people and objects will behave or operate.
5. Creativity: The Mind, Machines, and Mathematics
This lecture is presented by MIT and functions more as a public debate between two of the most important figures in computing, artificial intelligence, and human brain processing. The discussion in this lecture centers around machines, and if it is possible for them to achieve the capacity for human creativity that is enabled by what we refer to as “consciousness”. This video is an interesting look into a large subfield of cognitive science–artificial intelligence and computing.
These are only a handful of cognitive science lectures available; full-fledged courses through MIT’s OpenCourseWare and others of its kind have proliferated as the cognitive science branch itself takes off. Hopefully, the above courses will give those interested in the field a better indication of the variety of topics covered.