Nice to find this resource on the internet, I’m in need of advice from knowledgeable people in the field regarding the choice of CogSci Master’s program.

My situation is that I have an undergraduate degree (like a B.A.) in psychology, a major which I never really enjoyed because:

  1. Psychology as a "survey science" is not interesting to me.
  2. Theoretically, psychology is a mess, too much "pop science", not enough clarification of the issues.
  3. I’m not enough adequate/motivated enough to perform in the kind of work psychologists do in clinical, educational or organizational settings.

Anyway, now that i'm done with undergrad, and I found out about CogSci as a parallel-associated-updated field which deals with psychology from a computational basis. I would like to get in a masters where the training in analytical methods, be it computational modeling, statistical analysis or other kinds, is good enough, to have new professional horizons closer to what a computer scientist does.

My current interests are cognitive robotics, behavioral operations management and cognitive economics through as I said mathematical and other analytical methods, which end up having to with Applied Cognitive Science

Given that during my BA I didn't train myself in mathematics enough, would CogSci help develop the relevant skills and change my career perspectives? What programs would you recommend which are strong in this sense?

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to CogSci! I think your question is a bit too broad and could use some editing, because you're really asking two separate questions. (1) What mathematical background is needed for a typical cogsci MSc, and what level of mathematical ability can I expect to attain during one?; (2) Are there any particularly mathematics-intensive (classes of) cogsci MSc programmes that emphasize problems X, Y and Z? $\endgroup$ – Christian Hummeluhr May 3 '15 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ The Drexel Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences program (drexel.edu/psychology/academics/graduate/acbs/overview) is a good choice (full disclosure: I'm faculty in that program). We emphasize quantitative training in modeling and statistical methods and prepare students for careers in both academia and industry. Our Masters program is based on essentially the same coursework as our PhD program. $\endgroup$ – Dan M. May 3 '15 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ @DanM. I'm not sure what our policy is on giving career advice or specific program recommendations (I don't think we have one), but as a test case, I'd upvote that as an answer if you added a little detail about what modeling and statistics you teach there, and whether/what math proficiency is assumed or taught. Personally, I think it makes sense to ask this question here. $\endgroup$ – Christian Hummeluhr May 3 '15 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ Hi, thanks for the welcome and help, that program indeed looks good on the methodological sense and the fact that the faculty is multidisciplinary, do you know of people who end up working in joint Cognitive Science-Computer Science projects?... I'm actually looking in Europe more than in the USA due to the less tuition fees, but most of all, I want to get a sense of how technical the work can get in a masters program and how steep the learning curve could be. $\endgroup$ – aml09 May 4 '15 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ I think discussions of CogSci graduate programs are a useful contribution. I'll write an answer version in a somewhat more general way. $\endgroup$ – Dan M. May 4 '15 at 0:33

Cognitive science graduate programs are quite diverse, reflecting the diverse interdisciplinary nature of the field. There will be some mix of psychology, computer science, neuroscience, and possibly philosophy, linguistics, and education. Individual programs differ in the relative proportions of those components, which then determines how much technical/computational background is needed and how much is taught. That said, because many people come to cognitive science from psychology, it is fairly common for first year students to be inclined to computational/quantitative approaches but not necessarily trained in those techniques -- in many cases, that's the point of the graduate program. If you haven't already, I recommend checking out the Cognitive Science Society's Study page.

Regarding career paths, CogSci programs tend to be academically-oriented PhD programs. That is, training students to do basic research and to be professors. Of course, many students choose other paths, but few programs specifically prepare them for those other paths. One exception is the Drexel University Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences program (full disclosure: I'm faculty in that program). We emphasize quantitative training with classes on computational cognitive modeling (Bayesian and PDP models) and statistical tools beyond the core behavioral science statistical methods (multilevel regression, Bayesian statistics, analysis of neuroimaging data, data mining). Our goal is to prepare students for careers in both academia and industry. The Masters program is based on essentially the same coursework as our PhD program.

  • $\begingroup$ Mr. Mirman, that is excellent, thanks for your help. I'm not either from the USA or Europe, where I live Psych stands by itself without much input yet from other sciences, so as I said I really need to see what options there are among programs of Cognitive Science that are truly interdisciplinary. At least I know now that some programs acknowledge and help the student with the associated learning curve if he wants to learn math So this would be an example of what one could consider, what other variants of analytical-professional (instead of purely academical) oriented programs could there be? $\endgroup$ – aml09 May 4 '15 at 7:19

So, after doing some more research, I've found some more examples of Cognitive Science being presented from a sort of technical perspective or with a technical emphasis (instead of a "pure science", social science or medical science perspective). They are the following:


The others are the Rensselaer Cognitive Science Dept. in the USA and the Cognitive Science Masters in the Applied Informatics Dept. in Bratislava, Slovakia (can't post more links).

Besides these there are broadly conceived Cognitive Science Depts. which have at least 2 or 3 areas devoted to more technical research or projects like for example Cognitive Science in Osnabrück, Germany or the "Cogmaster" in Paris, France.

I think these are examples of programs that provide professional and technical projection after their studies besides that of an academic career. This for me helps clarify the association between Cognitive Science and Computer Science and its potential, given that this is how this field started and how it differentiates itself from Psychology as the study of the mind and behavior. Cheers!


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