Explore the Mind

Graduate Designated Emphasis in Cognitive Science

Background image: image of brain connections

Overview of the Designated Emphasis

A designated emphasis (DE) is an interdisciplinary graduate minor. Graduate students who are already enrolled in any Berkeley Ph.D. program may apply to join the DE in Cognitive Science. Note: this program is only open to students who are enrolled students in a UC Berkeley PhD program. 

Students must be admitted to the DE prior to taking the Ph.D. qualifying exam.  

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary science of the mind. It is characterized by a focus on classic foundational questions about the mind, for example: What aspects of knowledge are innate? What aspects of thought are uniquely human? Is human thought rational? And it pursues these unifying core questions through methods drawn from a variety of disciplines, most commonly psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, anthropology, and philosophy.

Within this overall picture, there is one aspect of cognitive science that is theoretically central: that is computation. Computation serves both as a model of the mind, and as a set of precise tools for investigating it. Cognitive science thus represents an engagement with fundamental questions of the mind that is computationally oriented but is focused on human rather than artificial intelligence. In today’s environment, cognitive science has the potential to prepare students and citizens for a world in which the intersection of minds, machines, data, and inference is increasingly important, yet in which the centrality of the human mind to that intersection is sometimes obscured, or treated only superficially. Computational principles also serve as a shared lingua franca that allows psychologists, linguists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, and others to communicate with each other. For this reason, our DE emphasizes both interdisciplinary breadth (familiarity with substantive issues in disciplines other than the student’s own), and computational thinking (fluency in the lingua franca).