Thursday, October 6, 2011

Origins of Cognitive Science

Practices in cognitive science trace back to approximately the mid-1950’s when researchers in several fields began to develop theories of mind based on complex representations and computational procedures. However, the term itself wasn’t coined until the mid-1970’s, by H. Christopher Longuet-Higgins (born in April 1923 and died in March 2004), who is a well-known theoretical chemist, and wouldn’t you know it…a cognitive scientist. In the same decade the Cognitive Science Society was formed and the first Cognitive Science journal was published. Douglas Hofstadter, an American Academic and a distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science at Indiana University in Bloomington (son of Robert Hofstadter, an American physicist), was noted explaining how he came to switch from his previous research topic, Artificial Intelligence (“AI”), to Cognitive Science in the 1980’s, because AI become a sort of buzzword, [went Hollywood], and lost its fundamental meaning in the nature of thinking and being conscious.

SUNY Oswego’s department of Cognitive Science has yet to explicitly post how CogSci originated in our Academic majors and minors, but one can be sure that our Computer Science department was one of the major contributors in helping to originate and create the gateway into the Cognitive Science field on campus.

The link posted below provides a brief history into SUNY Oswego’s Computer Science department and explains a tid-bit on Cognitive Science affiliation with the computer sciences. I’ve heard several stories from my Cognitive Science advisor and professors on how they had a hand in registering CogSci as a program here. Professor Graci and Professor Vampola can also tell you about the academic and career achievements of SUNY Oswego’s first graduate and the many to follow who have graduated with Cognitive Science degree and then some. I'll be sharing some stories on a few of our alumni in another post.


  1. I don't think that it's a mere coincidence that our Computer Science department had the biggest role to play in the formation of a Cognitive Science department. Do you think that some of our other departments from the iconic "cognitive hexagon" helped to initiate it, as well?

  2. Most certainly, Abby. Our faculty members are all well aware of the Cognitive Science program and more broadly, the interdisciplinary assumption towards any study that is here to say. In fact, those explicitly involved in the hexagon, and more narrowly those involved in our program, make it a point to reveal the connections in relation to CogSci. I've personally experienced this in Dr. Jean Ann's LIN100 class in discussions about the aphasia's associated with the speech comprehension and production areas of the brain...Wernicke's and Broca's. Also, the psych department contributes in numerous ways, high lighting the courses PSY280/PSY290 and my favorite, PSY304/PSY405:Cognition. More recently, my ANT344 professor, Dr. Jing Lei, introduced us to an article, Cognitive Anthropology by William Foley which explains the study of thought in cultural context and addresses questions such as, in what ways is human thought the same everywhere and in what ways is it different cross-culturally?