COGS 493 Senior Seminar in Cognitive Science

Fall 2012

Wednesdays 1:10-3:50, TPL 113


Instructor: Andrea Danyluk

Department of Computer Science and Program in Cognitive Science

TCL 305 | x2178 |

Office Hours: Any time I’m in my office with the door open, but in particular Thursdays 1:00-3:00, and by appointment

(Exceptions: I’ll be out of town for conferences/giving talks 10/2-5 and 11/15-16)


This course serves as the capstone for the Cognitive Science concentration. In your electives, you have had the opportunity to explore specific interests in cognitive science.  This seminar now brings all of you together to share your individual knowledge and perspectives with each other while learning about and discussing current research, issues, and controversies in this interdisciplinary endeavor.


Requirements and Grading


Two Symposium Papers (12.5% each; i.e., 25% of the final grade)


The format for the seminar will consist largely of student presentations of papers, and class discussion of the issues raised by student papers and the readings.  Each week, one or two students will craft individual symposium papers to be included among the readings for the seminar. Each student will be responsible for two symposium papers over the course of the semester. An author of a symposium paper should take the assigned readings as a starting point for her own investigation of the literature on the week’s topic.  Her task, then, is to synthesize and comment on the material she has read.  It will be her responsibility to provide an overview of the principal issues for that week.  Symposium authors are encouraged to offer critical comments in their work.


Symposium papers should be approximately 5 pages long: typewritten, double spaced in a 12 point font.  No title page.  Papers are due Tuesdays by 9:00 PM, the night before the seminar meeting.  Symposium authors are asked to distribute their papers by email to the entire seminar.


Symposium Paper Presentations / Discussion Leadership (5% each; 10% total)


Authors of symposium papers for a given week are expected to lead discussion.  Students should meet with the instructor to coordinate the week’s agenda.


Participation (15%)


Your thoughtful participation is essential to the vitality of the seminar.  It is also the instructor’s primary indicator that you are reading the assigned papers carefully.


Many students are concerned with this aspect of the classroom dynamic, but it should not be a source of anxiety.  Keep in mind that your first priority is reading the assignments carefully and working diligently on the writing for the course.  Thoughtful, honest, and respectful participation derives from these.  Every effort will be made to ensure that the class is a welcoming forum for sharing serious ideas.  In addition, ‘participation’ is more inclusive than many students realize.  Being attentive and engaged in class and asking clarificatory questions fall under this heading.


If you will be unable to attend a session of the seminar (due to, for example, a field trip for another course, a religious observance, etc.), please inform the instructor as early in the semester as possible.


Project (15%)


The short project will provide you with the opportunity to explore in a “hands on” way some area of cognitive science.  This might involve neural network modeling, an exploration within the framework of a cognitive architecture such as SOAR or ACT-R, or a simulation of a complex system implemented in StarLogo.  For those exploring Honors work in Cognitive Science, this might be directly related to the thesis project.


Project Presentation (5%)


Each student will give a brief presentation of his or her project to the class on Nov. 7.


Final Paper (25%)


The final assignment for the course will be a term paper on a topic of your choice (and with approval of the instructor).  Students who hope to pursue Honors in Cognitive Science are advised to treat this paper as the first phase of thesis research.


Final papers should be 10-15 pages long: typewritten, double spaced, in a 12 point font.  No title page.  Final papers are due by 5:00 PM on December 15 (the last day that the Dean’s Office allows written work to be turned in for courses without final exams).


Final Paper Presentation (5%)


Each student will give a brief (15-20 minute) presentation on his or her research topic in the final class meeting of the semester (Dec. 5).


Resources Beyond the Instructor


The Writing Workshop operates in the evenings in Sawyer Library, Schow Science Library, and Paresky.  Students may drop in for a session or, when traffic is high, schedule an appointment.  Students who want to improve their writing may also request a tutor (or “Writing Partner”) by emailing


Students with disabilities who may need disability-related classroom accommodations for this course are encouraged to set up an appointment with me as soon as possible and to contact the Dean’s Office at x4262 to better insure that accommodations are provided in a timely manner.


Weekly Schedule of Topics and Readings


September 12             Behaviorism and Language


Skinner, B. F.  (1957).  Verbal Behavior.  NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Chapters 1 and 2.  (Additional chapters available on e-reserve.)


Chomsky, N. (1959).  Review of Verbal Behavior.  Language, 35, 26-58.


MacCorquodale, K. (1970).  On Chomsky’s review of Skinner’s Verbal Behavior.  Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 13, 83-99.


Palmer, D. C. (2006).  On Chomsky’s Appraisal of Skinner’s Verbal Behavior: A Half Century of Misunderstanding. The Behavior Analyst, 29, 253-267.


September 19             Mirror Neurons


Rizzolati, G. and Arbib, M. A.  (1998).  Language within our grasp.  Trends in

Neuroscience, 21, 188-194.


            Gallese, V., Keysers, C., and Rizzolati, G.  (2004). A unifying view of the basis of social cognition.  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 396-403.


Iacoboni M. and Dapretto M.  (2006). The mirror neuron system and the consequences of its dysfunction.  Nature Reviews of Neuroscience, 7, 942-951. 


            Dinstein, E., Thomas, C., Behrmann, M., and Heeger, D. J.  (2008). A mirror up to nature.  Current Biology, 18, R13-R18.


Kilner, J. M.  (2011). More than one pathway to action understanding.  Trends in

            Cognitive Sciences, 15, 352-357.


September 26             How Abstract is Abstract Thought?


Casasanto, D. (2008).  Similarity and proximity: When does close in space mean close in mind? Memory and Cognition, 36 (6), 1047-1056.


            Wilson, N. L. and Gibbs, R. W., Jr. (2007). Real and imagined body movement primes metaphor comprehension. Cognitive Science, 31, 721-731.


Weiskopf, D. A. (2010). Embodied cognition and linguistic comprehension. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 41, 294-304.


            Gibbs, R. W., Jr. and Perlman, M. (2010). Language understanding is grounded in experiential simulations: a response to Weiskopf. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 41, 305-308.


            Weiskopf, D. A. (2010). Understanding is not simulating: a reply to Gibbs and Perlman. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 41, 309-312.


October 3                   Language, Number, and Space


Gordon, P. (2004) Numerical Cognition Without Words: Evidence from

            Amazonia. Science, 306, 496-499.


            Pica, P., Lemer, C., Izard, V., and Dehaene, S. (2004) Exact and Approximate

            Arithmetic in an Amazonian Indigene Group. Science, 306, 499-503.


            Frank, M. C., Everett, D. L., Fedorenko, E., and Gibson, E. (2008) Number as a

            cognitive technology: Evidence from Pirahã language and cognition.

            Cognition, 108, 819-824.


            Butterworth, B., Reeve, R., and Reynolds, F. (2011) Using Mental

            Representations of Space When Words Are Unavailable: Studies of Enumeration

            and Arithmetic in Indigenous Australia. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology,

            42, 630-638.


            Clark, A. (2006) Language, embodiment, and the cognitive niche, Trends in

            Cognitive Sciences, 10 (8), 370-374.


October 10                 Dynamical Systems


Spivey, M. (2007).  The Continuity of Mind. NY: Oxford. Chapter 1.  (Additional chapters available on e-reserve.)


            Kukona, A. and Tabor, W. (2011). Impulse Processing: A Dynamical Systems

            Model of Incremental Eye Movements in the Visual World Paradigm. Cognitive

            Science, 35, 1009-1051.


            Botvinick, M. (2012). Commentary: Why I Am Not a Dynamicist. Topics in

            Cognitive Science, 4, 78-83.


October 17                 Quantum Theories of Consciousness

(special guest: Prof. Bill Wootters)


Penrose, R., and Hameroff, S. (2011). Consciousness in the universe: Neuroscience, quantum space-time geometry and the Orch OR Theory.

            Journal of Cosmology, 14.


            Litt, A., Eliasmith, C., Kroon, F., Weinstein, S., and Thagard, P. (2006). Is the brain a quantum computer? Cognitive Science, 30, 593-603.   


            Hameroff, S.R. (2007). The brain is both neurocomputer and quantum computer. Cognitive Science, 31, 1035-1045.


October 24                 The Promise and Pitfalls of Cognitive Neuroscience

(special guest: Prof. Nate Kornell [tentative])


Gazzaniga, M. S., Ivry, R. B., and Mangun, G. R. (2008). Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of Mind, 3rd ED. (Excerpt: 148-159).   


            Kosslyn, S. M. (1998). If neuroimaging is the answer, what is the question? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences, 354, 1283-1294.


            Poldrack, R. A. (2008). The role of fMRI in Cognitive Neuroscience: where do we stand? Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 18, 223-227.


            Van Horn, J. D. and Poldrack, R. A. (2009). Functional MRI at the crossroads.  International Journal of Psychophysiology, 73, 3-9.


            Weisberg, D. S., Keil, F. C., Goodstein, J., Rawson, E., and Gray, J. R. (2008). The seductive allure of neuroscience explanations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20, 470-477.


October 31                 Projects, week 1: Individual Meetings (NO CLASS MEETING)


November 7               Projects, week 2: Class Presentations


November 14             Creativity


Boden, M. (2004) The Creative Mind: Myths and mechanisms. New York:

            Routledge. Chapters 2 and 4.


            Thagard, P. and Stewart, T. C. (2011) The AHA! Experience: Creativity Through

            Emergent Binding in Neural Networks, Cognitive Science, 35, 1-33.


November 28             Tool Use in Non-Human Animals


Bluff, L. A., Weir, A. A. S., Rutz, C., Wimpenny, J. H., Kacelnik, A.  (2007).

Tool-related cognition in New Caledonian crows.  Comparative Cognition and

Behavior Reviews, 2, 1-25. 

                        Videos can be found embedded in the html version of this paper.


McGrew, W.C.  (2004)  Primatology:  Advanced ape technology.  Current

Biology, 14, R1046-7.

Related videos can be found in a paper by Sanz and co-workers, to be found here.


Whiten, A., Goodall, J., McGrew, W. C., Nishida, T., Reynolds, V., Sugiyama,

            Y., Tutin, C. E. G., Wrangham, R. W., and Boesch, C.  (1999)  Cultures in

chimpanzees.  Science, 399, 682-5.


            Johnson-Frey, S.H.  (2003)  What’s so special about human tool use?  Neuron, 39,



December 5                Student Presentations of Term Paper Topics


Honor Code


The project and all written work should be completed by each student independently.  Otherwise, discussion outside of class is highly encouraged.  For example, when two students are co-leading a class discussion, they should work together in preparing for that discussion, but their symposium papers should be written independently.  Students are also encouraged to seek help from the instructor on any assignment.


Plagiarism includes copying text or making use of ideas from any source (such as another person, a book, an article, or a web site) without acknowledging that source. Thus, in the assignments students must acknowledge all sources with citations, and either endnotes or footnotes containing the full reference information for those citations.


Please see “Academic Honesty and Honor Code” in the Student Handbook.  Please also be sure to see the instructor if you need clarification of any aspect of the Honor Code.