Should I study cognitive science

Cognitive science studies: all information

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Please don't think of a small, yellow car! Oops, did you? And now under no circumstances try to read this text in the voice of Sheldon Cooper! Too late ... But how is it that you had his voice in your head now? Where does this inner reader come from, how does something like reading, thinking, imagining something and understanding something actually work? And what role does our brain play in this? It is precisely these questions that cognitive science tries to answer. You can expect an interdisciplinary course with many elements from mathematics, biology, psychology, linguistics and computer science. The latter subject in particular plays an important part in cognitive science, because its results contribute to driving the development of artificial intelligences that should be able to think and act independently. Sounds like science fiction? Welcome to cognitive science.

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This computer science-heavy specialization focuses on automating intelligent behavior. Sounds complicated? It is, because the scientists themselves do not yet fully agree on what intelligence should actually be. Intelligence roughly describes the ability of humans to understand and react to their environment with the help of their senses. Similar to robotics, artificial intelligence deals with the transfer of these skills into mathematical models. In contrast to robotics, where it is then primarily about the "intelligent" execution of movements, one goal of artificial intelligence is to make a computer react to impressions in a communicative manner.
Imaging methods are important for modern medicine and are used to make body functions visible that would otherwise remain hidden from us. Typical examples are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT). In addition, there are a number of other methods that make processes in the body visible. Among other things, you will learn how the individual imaging processes work and how to “read” the corresponding image output. In this way you are able to work on the further development of such devices yourself, which are primarily intended for the representation of the processes in the nervous system and in the brain.
Trees drop their leaves in autumn, antelopes flee when they hear the rustling grass, people close their eyes when they are blinded. Perceiving the environment and interacting with it is a matter of course for all living things. After all, there is no moment in life when we do not do this. The aim of robotics or robot technology is to transfer precisely these two concepts - perception and interaction - to mechanical constructions and thus to give them "life". Cognitive science uses knowledge from computer science, linguistics and psychology to transfer perceptual processes into easily formulated models, so-called cognitive architectures.

Did you already know, that...

... someone who writes a program that manages to convince a person for 25 minutes that they are chatting with a real person wins the so-called Loebner Prize worth 100,000 dollars? The award was announced in 1991. This task is known as the Turing test. So far there has not been a program that could meet the conditions of the Loebner Prize.

... modern science does not just assume the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch? The feeling of temperature, the sensation of pain and the sense of balance are also classified as separate senses. Scientists are not entirely in agreement, however, which is why the number of human senses fluctuates between 14 and 20.

... there are people who can remember everything that they have experienced so far? You suffer from what is known as hyperthymetic syndrome. The so-called declarative long-term memory is particularly strong in your brain, every recorded situation and every experienced situation is assessed by the brain as equally important or emotionally significant and stored in the memory.

Winner: theory

In the Cognitive Science degree, you will examine the processes and requirements that enable our cognition, i.e. our intellectual achievements such as thinking and speaking, but also, for example, feelings such as love, hate or grief. It has always been assumed that thought processes take place like calculations, i.e. that they can be understood on a mathematical level. That is why the mathematics and computer science components are very high in the course. There are also occasional modules in which you work with computer models, for example to teach a robot to grasp a cup. However, the theoretical part clearly predominates in the cognitive science course.

You spend most of your time with ...

  • ... mathematics and computer science.
  • ... cognitive architectures and algorithms.
  • ... neuroscience.
  • ... mathematical models to describe thought and perception processes.
  • ... the problems of artificial intelligences.

Examples of lectures & seminars

  • - Cognitive architectures
  • - Controversies in cognitive science
  • - Space and time cognition
  • - Learning the kinematics and targeted control of a robot arm
  • - Visual perception and attention

Possible master’s degree programs

Cognitive Science - Human Factors - Intelligent Systems - European Master’s Program in Computational Logic - Neuro-Cognitive Psychology - Neural & Behavioral Sciences - Applied Cognitive and Media Studies - Language Science and Technology

Tips for beginners

1. Be ready for math, math & math:

Similar to the psychology degree, you can expect a lot of math in the first semesters of cognitive science. You should be prepared for that. After all, in cognitive science it is primarily assumed that the way in which thinking works can best be approached through mathematics. The corresponding mathematical models must therefore be readily available in the long term. So grit your teeth if you weren't a fan of math at school and take tutorials. You are certainly not alone there :)

2. Do androids dream of electric sheep?

What is the difference between people and machines who sometimes don't even know that they are just machines? Are intelligence, emotions and empathy purely “human” traits? Key questions for numerous mind games, one of which became the novel “Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep?” By the American writer Philip Kindred Dick - better known as “Blade Runner”. An explicit reading recommendation if you want to deal with cognitive science questions on a literary level. The Turing test also occurs in a slightly modified form.

3. Think early about your career prospects:

It is not that easy for cognitive scientists to find a job in the private sector with a BA degree. You should definitely consider a master’s degree and also think about the direction in which you want to specialize. It depends on where you can go professionally. This can also have an impact on your choice of university. It is best to find out from the student advisory service at the respective university which thematic focuses are placed in their courses so that you know what options you have at the respective locations.

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