Course Goals. This course provides a graduate-level introduction to human cognitive processes, treated from an information-processing point of view. As other courses emphasize neurophysiology and simple cognitive processes, this course will emphasize problem solving and other complex tasks, and the organization of the cognitive system, viewed at the symbolic level.
Students will take initiative in guiding their own learning, without the instructor defining specific tasks on a day-to-day basis.
Knowledge and Skills. In this course, you will be expected to acquire (1) a knowledge of contemporary theory of how people think and learn by processing symbols, and the empirical evidence supporting (or challenging) the theory, and (2) some fundamental research skills useful for exploring these questions. In addition to skills of designing and carrying out standard laboratory experiments, you will have opportunities to acquire and practice skills (a) of using and constructing computer programs to simulate human cognitive processes and (b) of obtaining and analyzing verbal thinking-aloud protocols as an important source of data for cognitive studies.
Three main threads run through the course simultaneously: (1) the contemporary theory of human cognition and its empirical base, (2) task environments for studying cognition and (3) methods for modeling behavior and securing empirical data. The course is organized mainly along the first thread. The sequence of major topics is shown on the attached schedule.
Textbooks. The principal textbooks for the course are Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd Edition, and a volume of selected research papers, both available in the bookstore. The library has copies of Newell and Simon, Human Problem Solving, and Simon, Models of Thought, Volumes I and II, which will also be referred to extensively.
Other Readings. The readings indicated in the schedule refer mainly to the textbooks but also to some articles from the literature. They deal with the main substantive topics we shall discuss as well as the principal empirical and modeling techniques used in cognitive research. Optional readings are marked with an asterisk (*). Other readings will be recommended from time to time.
Computer Programs. A set of computer programs will give you access to some important cognitive simulations and some experimental paradigms – see memos on "Accessing Class Account on Andrew Server," and "Cognitive Theories in the form of Computer Programs." You will be referred to specific programs when they are relevant to current topics, and a number of written homework assignments will use the programs. You will probably also want to browse extensively through these resources.
Class Notes. Notes on the topics discussed in class will be distributed. Students will not take notes during class (except to record references, etc.), so that, being serial processors, they can devote full attention to the class discussion. (We will discuss how this policy derives from the information processing theory of learning.) In general, the course will provide you with opportunities to reflect on, and improve, your own learning strategies and habits.
Class Sessions. Each class period will begin with your questions. You must keep a notebook in which to record questions that arise in your mind while you are reading or doing research in connection with the course, and to raise your questions in class at the first opportunity. The number and quality of questions will provide me with one set of measures of your involvement, and activity, and the questions will identify matters needing clarification. I may ask to inspect the notebooks at some point during the semester.
In addition to the two 80-minute class sessions each week, the teaching assistant will schedule additional meetings for students who wish further discussion of topics considered in the course, or assistance in developing their programming or experimental skills.
Progress Reports. Every second Tuesday, beginning October 10, you must submita statement of not more than two pages, describing what progress you have made, and by what means, toward accomplishing the objectives mentioned in this syllabus, including:
1. acquiring knowledge about cognition and the supporting evidence;
2. understanding theories expressed as computer programs, acquiring skills of constructing them, and using them to predict human behavior in various task environments;
3. obtaining and using verbal protocols as data.
To the extent possible, your statements should provide concrete examples rather than generalities.
Course Requirements. If you are taking this course for credit, you will be expected (1) to do the homework assignments, (2) to submit progress reports (3) to pass a final examination and (4) to complete a term project involving either a protocol-gathering experiment, a computer simulation of a cognitive activity, or both. The nature of this assignment will be discussed in detail in class. A written term project proposal is due on October 12, and the final project report on December 12. In addition a minorwritten assignment or a mid-term exammay be scheduled for about October 19 (details later). Items 3 and 4 on the list of requirements will each determine about 45 per cent of the grade; items 1 and 2 may tip the balance of grades on the borderline between one letter and the next.
Graduate students and SCS undergraduate students generally enroll in this course for 12 units, others for 9. Those enrolled for 12 units will be expected to devote correspondingly more effort to their term projects than those enrolled for 9, and will be graded accordingly.