I'm not sure what is the name of a branch of cognitive science that deals with the application of cognitive science to the real world.

I know that in Biology, there are fields like genetic engineering or biomedical engineering, where the principles of science of Biology are applied to development of products.

In physics there's mechanical and electrical engineering.

I did a search and found that there are several applied cognitive science labs at various psychology departments in the US.

Is there some branch of cognitive science that is focused on using the knowledge to create products or services? Am I thinking of the applied cognitive science, psychology, psychiatry or something else?

Thank you!

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    $\begingroup$ UX design, industrial-psychologists in industry, and education are the first things that pop to mind. $\endgroup$ Nov 16, 2012 at 13:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Neuroengineering" is a nascent branch of biomedical engineering, and there are a few programs out there. $\endgroup$ Nov 16, 2012 at 17:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ everything said above + human factors, human-computer interaction, neuroergonomics... $\endgroup$
    – Jeff
    Nov 16, 2012 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ maybe you could ask this question on this site proposal: undergraduates. Follow it if you find it interesting! $\endgroup$
    – Daniele B
    Jan 23, 2013 at 17:16

2 Answers 2


The answer depends on how you are defining cognitive science and what threshold you use to attribute that actionable component.

If you are talking about cognitive sciences in the broad sense that we use on this site, then you encompass disciplines including psychology, psychiatry, neurobiology, and so on. This opens up a much broader set of applied fields.

There is also the question of what is meant by cognitive science in action. There is a whole spectrum in the degree to which fields would draw on cognitive science findings.

A few applied fields that stand out as having very close links with psychology, cognitive science, psychology, and neurobiology (i.e., what we mean on this site by cognitive sciences) include:

  • Applied Psychology including clinical, organisational, educational, counselling, sports psychology, etc. as well as a wide range of counselling, social work, and related roles
  • Psychiatry
  • Human factors, ergonomics, usability, user experience, etc fields
  • Various medical fields related to neurobiology
  • Education and related fields

Then there is a whole raft of fields which draw on such knowledge to a greater or lesser degree:


  • Management, human resources, marketing, market research, etc.
  • Occupational health and safety, work design, product design, etc.
  • etc.

No doubt many other fields could be mentioned. I think this is partially explains the popularity of psychology as an undergraduate subject.


Human-Computer Interaction will give you a background for user testing. Compared to UX design, which draws from social psychology and anthropology, I would say HCI is more related to cognitive science. Donald Norman describes HCI as a "solved problem." We know how to make systems usable. Interaction design is a newer field evolving from HCI. There's also Human-Information Interaction, which is even newer. To learn more about HII, look up Information Foraging Theory. For lots of insight on how to apply psychology to web design, check out http://useit.com

Interaction design is amazing because it can be applied outside a business context. Instead of designing for profit, you could design for impact. Problems like poverty and education are going to need to be addressed as design problems. Interaction designers are going to very valuable, working together with politicians, in solving the world's wicked problems. (Look up 'wicked problems') Good luck! –

The best place to start is reading Don Norman's The Design of Everyday Things.


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