Cognitive science VS Neuroscience

October 8, 2016

Image courtesy of Steve
A professor writes: My colleagues here at my small liberal arts college in several disciplines (biology, biochemistry, psychology, computer science, languages) want to start a minor that covers neuroscience (including neuroscience that is not cognitive neuroscience) and what I would call cognitive science. My colleagues are keen, enthusiastic, inclusive and want very much for courses in philosophy, computer sciences, linguistics, etc. to be part of the program. That's the good news. The bad news is that many think that the minor should be called a Neuroscience minor. What I have learned is that folks who do this from the hard sciences think of the term 'Neuroscience' as including these areas. My response, in brief, is, 'that's the problem.' Thankfully, because I have such wonderful colleagues, this hasn't presented an inalterable obstacle. They have responded that they are very surprised to learn that folks who they think of as being included under 'neuroscience' might not want to be included under this umbrella exclusively. To be clear: the alternative proposal is to call the program 'Neuroscience and Cognitive Science.' What they want from me is some very short, clear, explanation of why folks who do what might be better termed 'cognitive science' would appreciate being in a program that includes that title rather than the title 'Neuroscience.' The problem, as the reader sees it, is that neuroscience and cognitive science seem to represent significant methodological differences. Cognitive science assumes that cognitive phenomena can be studied at multiple levels and the process rather than their neural correlates are the objects of study. What do you think?

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