CS371: Cognitive Science, Bryn Mawr College

Douglas Blank
Computer Science Department
Spring 2013


Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of intelligence in mechanical and organic systems. In this introductory course, we examine many topics from computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, mathematics, philosophy and psychology. Can a computer be intelligent? How do neurons give rise to thinking? What is consciousness? These are some of the questions we will examine. No prior knowledge or experience with any of the subfields is assumed or necessary. It is assumed that you have junior or senior ranking in a field related to cognitive science. Otherwise, you should have permission of the instructor.

General Information

Course URL: cs.brynmawr.edu/cs371
Instructor: Douglas Blank, 248 Park Science Building, 526-6501
Email: dblank (at) cs (dot) brynmawr (dot) edu
Web: cs.brynmawr.edu/~dblank
Office hours: Monday and Wednesday, 1-2pm and by appointment
Course Meetings: Tues and Thursdays, 9:45-11:15am, Park Science 227
On-line course materials: moodle.brynmawr.edu
Open Lab: Park Science Building, room 230, Fridays 1-2


This course will be part seminar/part hands-on laboratory. We will have readings or lab assignments, followed by discussions. Students are expected to be in attendance, and participate in discussions.


We will be using a variety of software for this course. A Linux account will be created for you so that you may use the computer science laboratories for experiments.

Schedule (approximate, schedule may change)

1 Tue 01/22/2013, Thu 01/24/2013 Introduction to Cognitive Science
Cogntive Science Central Dogma: Representational/Computational Assumption
Assignment #1: Read Cognitive Science and Cognitive Science at Wikipedia. Write a paragraph or 2 write-up detailing interesting aspect of readings. Bring printed write-up and be prepared to discuss next Tuesday, 1/29
2 Tue 01/29/2013, Thu 01/31/2013 Discussion of Cognitive Science Assignment #2: Minds, Brains, and Programs. Write a 1-page "reaction" write-up detailing how you feel about the reading. Is Searle right? Bring printed write-up and be prepared to discuss next Tuesday, 2/5.
Assignment #3: Exploration of Chess
3 Tue 02/05/2013, Thu 02/07/2013 Discussion, Chess Challenge (completed, 50 move stasis max, crash == lose, each team played every other team 4 times):
1 (Natalie & Bianca) 22641479
2 (Besan & Siv) 52431521
3 (Maggie & Lakshmi) 22821500
4 (Elizabeth & Yijun)62511557
5 (Alicia & Shohini) 02751443
6 (Leslie & Francine)22641479
7 (Lara & Travis) 03111486
8 (Subin & Esther) 03021479
9 (Doug) 52701557
Assignment #4: Using Chess as the domain, compare with Searle's argument. Discuss related questions, such as: Is chess.py a good example of AI? What do we need for general intelligence? What is a symbol? Also, please describe a bit about how your program actually works. Would you be able to tell how it works by just watching it play games, if you weren't familiar with its inner workings? Describe the style of how your program plays.
4 Tue 02/12/2013, Thu 02/14/2013 Discussion on Symbols Assignment #5: NetTalk. Read the first 1/2 of the original 1987 paper on NetTalk, and come ready to discuss on Thursday, Feb 14, 2013.
5 Tue 02/19/2013, Thu 02/21/2013 Discussion on Non-symbols and NetTalk Assignment #6: Learning in a Neural Network. More details can be found here.
6 Tue 02/26/2013, Thu 02/28/2013 Discussion on Learning Assignment #7: Read Finding Structure in Time, discussion on Tuesday.
7 Tue 03/05/2013, Thu 03/07/2013 Discussion on Finding Structure in Time Assignment #8: Representing Time. SRN additional details
8 Tue 03/12/2013, Thu 03/14/2013 Spring Break!
9 Tue 03/19/2013, Thu 03/21/2013 Building your own Finding structure in Time Finishing Assignment #8 (due next Thursday)
10 Tue 03/26/2013, Thu 03/28/2013 Discussion Assignment #9: Read for next Tuesday: A self-watching model of analogy-making and perception. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, 18(3), pp. 267-307.
11 Tue 04/02/2013, Thu 04/04/2013 Discussion of Metacat and Copycat Assignment #10: Metacat Lab: Due the exercises for next Tuesday. Also see here for additional information.
12 Tue 04/09/2013, Thu 04/11/2013 Discussion on Metacat and Creativity
Discussion on Neurons
Assignemnt #11: Neurons. Please read and run:
  1. Neurons, Action Potentials, and Neurotransmission. There are a number of animations. Please read and review all, including the Additional Resources.
  2. Neuroscience Online. Make sure you click the buttons and "Play" in the images.
13 Tue 04/16/2013, Thu 04/18/2013 Discussion on The Hard problem Next Readings: The Hard Problem, Philosophy of Mind
  1. Introduction to the problem
  2. ... and Reductionism
  3. ... and Emergence
  4. ... and Zombies
  5. Videos
  6. Advanced discussion
14 Tue 04/23/2013, Thu 04/25/2013 Discussion on Mirror Neurons Readings: Mirror Neurons
  1. Introduction to Mirror Neurons
  2. PBS Resources
  3. Hype or Real?
  4. S.A. Blog
  5. Broken Mirror Hypothesis and Autism
  6. Broken Mirror?
15 Tue 04/30/2013, Thu 05/02/2013 Discussion on Intelligence, Course wrap-up
  1. Cat, Shark, and duckling
  2. Clever birds!
  3. Caledonia Crows
  4. Alex the Parrot
  5. Hero Dog
  6. Dogs on the Subway
  7. Snow Monkeys
  8. Dolphins!
  9. Whale Culture
Discussion of Animal Intelligence
16 Final Project Videos
  1. Bayesian Models of Cognition - Siv Lu
  2. Neurobiology of Autism - Lara Belasco
  3. Human-Robot Interaction - Alicia Harder
  4. Social Intelligence - Francine Wei
  5. Self Awareness - Yijun Zhou
  6. The Boltzmann Machine - Bianca Boranda
  7. Psychology of User Interface Design - Natalie Kato
  8. Sentiment Analysis - Shohini Bhattasali
  9. Sleep and Dreams - Subin Park
  10. Political Risk Modeling - Travis Taylor
  11. Visual Recognition in Animals - Elizabeth Fawcett
  12. Sleep Paralysis (parts 1 and 2) - Maggie Xiong
  13. Face Processing in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders - Lakshmi Somasundaram
  14. Zombies - Besan Abu Radwan
  15. Cognitive Mapping - Leslie Tjing
  16. The Hurley Model of Humor - Storrs Kegel

Other dates of interest in Spring 2013:

Classes Begin Tuesday, January 22, 2013
PE Classes Begin Monday, January 28, 2013
Last day to drop a fifth class Friday, February 8, 2013
Last day to sign up for Credit/No Credit for Semester classes Friday, March 1, 2013
Spring Vacation Begins (after last class) Friday, March 8, 2013
Spring Vacation Ends (at 8:00am) Monday, March 18, 2013
Preregistration begins Monday, April 8, 2013
Preregistration ends Friday, April 19, 2013
Last Day of Classes Friday, May 3, 2013
Review Period Starts Saturday, May 4, 2013
End of Review Period Monday, May 6, 2013
Examination Period (Start) Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Final examinations end for seniors (@ 12:30pm) Saturday, May 11, 2013
Examination Period (Ends at 12:30pm) Friday, May 17, 2013
Commencement Saturday, May 18, 2013


Final grades will be calculated as a weighted average of all grades according to the following weights:

Assignments and Labs: 80% (about 11)
Project: 20%

dblank (at) cs (dot) brynmawr (dot) edu