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    Vassar College
   
 
  Sep 23, 2017
 
 
    
Catalogue 2017-2018
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COGS 311 - Seminar in Cognitive Science

Semester Offered: Fall and Spring
1 unit(s)


The topic of the seminar varies regularly, but is always focused on some aspect of thought, language, perception, or action considered from the unique, synthetic perspective of cognitive science. The seminar is taught by faculty members in the program. May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 2017/18a: Qualitative Methods: Theory and Practice. This course focuses on methods for studying the subjective experience, thinking, and behavior of organisms, including in their real world contexts. Students are introduced to methods such as: structured and open-ended interview, journaling , experiential sampling, non-intrusive and participant observation, case studies, and longitudinal data gathering and how they are used in research and have hands-on experience with some of these methods. We also explore a set of basic philosophical issues regarding ways of knowing, whether it is ever possible to attain objective knowledge, the reliability of subjective data, the role of context in organism functioning, and the related problem of ecological validity. We consider the advantages and limitations of the methods that we study. The focus is on qualitative research methods. Gwen Broude.

Topic for 2017/18b: Information. Few concepts are as central historically to cognitive science as the concept of information.  It was one of the core ideas around which the multidiscipline coalesced in the 1960s and 70s, with threads that help to stitch together fields as disparate as computer science, the behavioral sciences, philosophy, and neuroscience.  But like many ideas that are first transformative but then become routine, the real history and significance of the concept of information has become vague and its detailed meanings and implications lost or glossed over among many in the field.  Our goal in this seminar is to revisit the history of this idea and to explore its power, its limitations, and its future role in the field.  When and how did the idea of information stop being an ordinary term of explanation about sharing knowledge and become a technical scientific term?  How did the idea that we think or learn by processing information come into being?  What is the relationship between formal theories of information and meaning?  Is there a difference between information and meaningful information?  Is there a deeper relationship between the concept of information and the phenomenon of consciousness.  Does this relationship link the idea of information, and thus the phenomenon of consciousness, to some of the most fundamental laws of the universe itself? Josh de Leeuw and Ken Livingston.

Prerequisite(s): one 200-level Cognitive Science course and permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.



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