Description of the Center
A primary goal of the Center is to foster research concerned with the nature of certain symbolic processes that are constitutive of intelligent performance. The approach in cognitive science, in contrast with the approach taken by other investigators interested in similar issues, is essentially computational. The goal is to understand such aspects of intelligent performance as perception, language processing, planning, problem solving, reasoning, and learning, in terms of the computational processes that underwrite these skills, as well as the computational mechanisms (be they silicon hardware, or neural tissue) that may instantiate them. The pursuit is essentially multi-disciplinary and involves techniques and knowledge drawn from experimental psychology, computer science, neuroscience, philosophy, linguistics, mathematics, and engineering.
The multidisciplinary nature of the research goes much deeper in cognitive science than in many other interdisciplinary fields. A typical cognitive science research project, say in visual perception, would involve substantive contributions from psychological and/or psycho- biological experiments, from the application of principles of physical optics, techniques from mathematics and logic, and considerations of representational formalism and cognitive architecture that are sometimes the subject of study in the philosophy of mind and philosophical logic. Finally such research would typically lead to the implementation of a model in the form of a computer program, which might then be examined empirically by applying it to real digitized pics. Similarly, the study of how natural language is understood by humans, and how it might be processed by a computer, might involve considerations that are equally widely dispersed across academic disciplines --including physical acoustics, psychophysics, linguistics, psycholinguistics, the study of discourse processes (which involves issues of reasoning, planning, and knowledge-representation, frequently studied in artificial intelligence), as well as issues of semantics such as studied in philosophy of language and philosophy of mind.
Because both the content and the techniques used in such investigations come from such a wide diversity of sources, it is difficult to anticipate which of the contributing disciplines will provide the critical insight for some particular research problem. For this reason the Center provides the facilities to enable researchers to interact fully and freely with each other as well as with other external researchers and industrial laboratories.
Organization of the Center
The Center for Cognitive Science was established and funded in 1991 at the New Brunswick site of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. It is currently housed on the Busch campus near the psychology, computer science, and engineering departments.
The Center has 21 jointly appointed faculty members at present and is expected to add a few more over the next few years. It also has an additional 25 associates housed in various departments who play an active role in the intellectual life of the Center, as well as 4 Emeritus faculty. The permanent budget of the Center provides for some startup research funds, graduate and post doctoral fellowships, a visiting speaker series, faculty visitorships, and faculty retraining fellowships.
The Center is concerned with coordinating research activities in cognitive science throughout the university. Although it does not grant degrees, it provides a mechanism -- called the Certificate Program in Cognitive Science -- for advising graduate students who wish to specialize in the interdisciplinary study of cognitive science. Such students may use the Center's resources and may also be housed in the Center's space. They will also be identified in their records as individuals who have specialized in the field of cognitive science and will receive a Certificate in Cognitive Science along with their graduate degrees (MSc, MA, or PhD) on graduation.
Brian McLaughlin is the Faculty Director and Sara Pixley is the Staff Director. The policies of the Center are set in consultation with an executive committee which has representation from several participating departments.