What is cognitive science?

Cognitive Science is a new discipline, but one with long historical foundations. In brief, this foundation derives from the understanding that people - and by extension other animals - are both capable of cognition (that is, of coming to know something about the environment or the self) and are machines. The status of people as machines is an incontrovertable consequence of evolution; thus we are led to ask what characteristics are necessary to enable non-animate machines to function as cognizers.

The discipline of cognitive science is in the process of emerging out of existing fields. Cognitive science employs the methodological and conceptual tools of psychology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, behavioral ecology and philosophy, among those of other disciplines. What forms the core of the new domain is a commitment to the study of cognition per se, and an agreement that it is possible to determine how a mind can work in a physical world.

About the Institute

The Institute of Cognitive Science (ICS) is located on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Rougeou Hall. It is designated by the Louisiana Board of Regents as one of six Centers of Excellence of the University.

The Institute's primary responsibility is the execution of the Ph.D. program in Cognitive Science, initiated by the University in 1998, and implemented for Fall 1999. The first full batch of doctoral students entered the program in Fall 2000. In May 2004, the University conferred the first doctoral degree in cognitive science to Benjamin Rowland. Dr. Rowland is, in fact, the first ever holder of a Ph.D. degree in cognitive science in the State of Louisiana. As of Fall 2006, four students have been awarded Ph.D degrees in cognitive science by the University, and the Institute has some twenty students enrolled in the doctoral program.

Presently, the Institute is composed of eight faculty. Some of these have their primary appointments with ICS, while others are affiliated with other departments, including the Center for Advanced Computer Studies, the Department of Psychology, and the Department of Philosophy. In addition, the Institute offers three University fellowships and several graduate assistantships. Their primary appointments are in the above mentioned departments as well as the Department of Communicative Disorder, the Department of Mathematics, the Department of Biology, and the Department of English.

Research and training in the Institute spans cognitive phenomena across humans, machines and animals and include in particular the following emphases: learning and memory, lexical semantics, language processing, creativity, evolutionary approaches, and the philosophy of mind and of cognitive science. The Institute supports empirical, theoretical and computer-based approaches to cognition and cognitive processes. As an interdisciplinary program we are also open to students with an interest in education, the arts and the humanities.

In support of these research areas, ICS is constituted in part of the following research laboratories and projects: the Artificial Intelligence Neural Network Project, the Adaptive Processes Laboratory, the Cognitive and Discourse Processes Laboratory, the Creativity and Cognition Project, and the Language and Cognition Laboratory.

In its short existence thus far, ICS has received four prestigous graduate fellowships awarded by the Louisiana Board of Regents. In addition, the Institute offers two University fellowships and several graduate assistantships. By way of these means, all students in the program receive financial support.

Its faculty have received research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Louisiana Board of Regents Support Fund (BORSF), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The faculty also includes the holder of one of the University's Eminent Scholar Endowed Chairs.