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Cognitive Science

University of Warwick

Department of Psychology 2018/19

Module Code:


Module Name:

Cognitive Science

Module Credits (CATS):


Module Convener

George Dunbar

Module Teachers

Module Aims

  • To introduce interdisciplinary approaches to the study of higher cognitive processes.
  • To familiarise students with computational and other formal modelling.
  • To illustrate the application of modelling to cognitive processes.

This module examines basic processes of thought and language, emphasising experimental and computational approaches. In particular, studies of adult conceptual representation are considered in relation to the literature on cognitive development, and the relationship between conceptual structure and language understanding is explored. The role of modelling is discussed critically. Students are also given a basic practical introduction to cognitive modelling, and have the opportunity for hands-on encounters with "intelligent" programs.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

Implement a small cognitive model.

Integrate material across areas within psychology and across traditional subject discipline boundaries.

Compare and critically evaluate the performance of formal models as accounts of cognitive processing.

Understand and discuss key theoretical topics in cognitive science, particularly problems linked by the themes of word meaning, concepts, and common sense reasoning.

Assessed by:

Exercises / worksheets, modelling project & exam

Module Work Load

Module Length

12 weeks


One two hour lecture per week


One two hour seminar (1 week)


Attendance is compulsory

Module Assessment

Assessed work: Exercise


Assessed work:



Assessed work:

Modelling project




Module Reading List

Cognitive Science PS341

Here are some materials to support PS341. They are arranged in roughly the order they become relevant to the course. Last updated November, 2012.


A. M. Turing (1950) Computing Machinery and Intelligence. Mind 49: 433-460.

Chomsky, Noam (1959) A Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior. Language 35(1):26-58.

McCarthy, John (1983). The little thoughts of thinking machines. 

Quinn P.C.; Johnson M.H.(1997). The Emergence of perceptual category representations in young infants: A connectionist analysis Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 66, 236-263 [you can skip pp247-253 (simulations parts 2-4)]

Mareschal, French, & Quinn (2000). A connectionist account of asymmetric category learning in early infancy. Developmental Psychology, 36, 635-645.

Conceptual organisation Medin, D. & Waxman, S. (1998). In W. Bechtel & G. Graham (Eds.), A Companion to Cognitive Science (pp. 167-175). Oxford, England: Blackwell.

Medin, D. L., Lynch, E. B., & Solomon (2000)Are there kinds of concepts? 

Nguyen & Murphy (2003)An apple is more than just a fruit: Cross-classification in children's concepts 

Keil, F. (1989). Concepts, kinds and conceptual development. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Waxman & Lidz (2005)Early word learning 

Markman Constraints on word learning: Speculations about their nature, origins, and domain specificity

Chapter 7 of Thought and Language by Lev Vygotsky

Colunga and Smith (2003)The emergence of abstract ideas: evidence from networks and babies Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , vol. 358, no. 1435, pp. 1205-1214.

Hirst (1988)Resolving lexical ambiguity computationally with spreading activation and polaroid words 

Dunbar (2001).Towards a cognitive analysis of polysemy, ambiguity, and vagueness. Cognitive Linguistics. Volume 12, Issue 1, Pages 1–14.

Dunbar (2012) Adaptive Resonance Theory as a model of polysemy and vagueness in the cognitive lexicon. Cognitive Linguistics, 23, 507-538.

Klein & Murphy (2002)Paper has been my ruin: Conceptual relations of polysemous senses 

Klein & Murphy (2001) The representation of polysemous words 

Smith, Osherson, Rips, & Keane (1988) Combining prototypes: A selective modification model

Gagne (2002) Relations versus properties in conceptual combination Wisniewski & Love (1998)

Dunbar (2006) Goldliocks economy draft paper

Rozenblit & Keil (2002) The misunderstood limits of folk science... Cognitive Science, 92, 1-42.