Psychology 3139B-001

Cognitive Science

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.


Cognitive Science combines psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, neuropsychology, linguistics, philosophy, and anthropology to study how people think. Students will learn about how cognitive scientists approach problems in a diverse, integrated manner to help us understand how people learn and process, for example, concepts and language.


Prerequisites: Psychology 2820E or both Psychology 2800E and 2810, and one of Psychology 2115A/B, 2134A/B, 2135A/B, 2220A/B, 2221A/B, or Neuroscience 2000

3 lecture/discussion hours, 0.5 course


Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enroll in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record.  This decision may not be appealed.  You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites.


       Instructor:   Dr. Pierina Cheung                               

       Office and Phone Number:  TBA at WIRB

       Office Hours: By appointment                                



       Teaching Assistant: Leah Brainin                  

       Office: TBA at WIRB                                                          

       Office Hours: TBA                                                 



       Time and Location of Classes: Thursdays, 3:30 to 6:30pm, SSC 2028

If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, there are several resources here at Western to assist you.  Please visit: for more information on these resources and on mental health.

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 ext 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.


There is no required textbook. Readings and videos will be assigned prior to the relevant lectures, and will be posted on OWL.


The primary objective of this course is to provide students with an introduction to Cognitive Science, an exciting approach to studying how people think that combines psychology, linguistics, philosophy, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and anthropology. Through four case studies, students will learn about how the different Cognitive Science disciplines approach problems in a diverse and integrated manner. Another objective of this course is to develop students’ reading, analytical, critical thinking and writing skills that are applicable across academic and non-academic settings.


By the end of this course, the successful student will be able to:


  • Identify the major disciplines that make up cognitive science and their unique contribution to cognitive science.
  • Evaluate the methodologies and interpretations of evidence in cognitive science.
  • Apply concepts and methodologies from cognitive science to everyday problems.
  • Develop critical thinking and writing skills that are applicable across academic and non-academic settings.


There will be multiple forms of assessments in this course. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Mini assignments (x4, 5% each; 20% total)
  • In-class quizzes (x3, 4% each; 12% total)
  • Paper (initial draft – 12%, final draft – 12%; 24% total)
  • Midterm (22%)
  • Final exam (22%)
  • If you complete all in-class activities, you will receive 2% bonus on top of the final grade.


5.1 In-class activities (not graded, 2% bonus). There will be in-class activities. They are meant to get you thinking about the course materials, rather than to evaluate your knowledge. They will not be graded but you must turn something in to get the bonus mark. The dates for these in-class activities will not be announced. You may miss one activity.


5.2 Take-home mini assignments (x4, 5% each, 20% total). There are four mini assignments designed to assess your reading, writing, and analytical skills that are applicable across academic and non-academic settings. To help develop these important skills, we will spend 15 to 20 minutes in some classes to go over how to (i) extract main ideas from articles, (ii) write a structured paragraph in support of an argument, and (iii) analyze, present and interpret empirical data.


5.3 In-class quizzes (x3, 4% each, 12% total). There are 3 short quizzes that will be given at the beginning of a class. They will cover materials from the previous weeks. Each quiz is worth 4% of the final grade. The quiz will be given during the first 10 – 15 minutes of class. If you miss a quiz for any reason, you will not be able to make it up later. If you are late, you may not be able to take the quiz. If you have an approved absence from class (see section 9.0), we may add 5% to a future quiz or your final exam mark.


5.4 Paper (24% total, 12% each). The goal of this assignment is to provide you an opportunity to practice and improve your writing skills. For this paper, you will respond to a prompt chosen from a list. An important part to writing is editing. To this end, you will submit the same paper twice: an initial version before class on March 1st, and a revised version before class on March 22nd. Feedback will be provided within one week of your initial submission. You should respond to our feedback in the final version of the paper. Both the initial and the final versions of the paper should be about 2 pages long, double-spaced. An example of a paper with clear arguments will be provided.


5.5 Midterm (x1, 22% total). The midterm will take place on March 1st from 3:30 to 6:30pm in SSC 2028. It will cover materials from weeks 1 to 6. The exam will consist of short answer questions and multiple choice questions. No electronic devices, including cell phones, will be allowed during exams. This exam is worth 22% of the final grade.


5.6 Final (x1, 22% total). The final exam will be scheduled by the registrar’s office. It will take place during finals week and cover materials from weeks 7 to 13. The exam will consist of short answer questions and multiple choice questions. No electronic devices, including cell phones, will be allowed during exams. This exam is worth 22% of the final grade.



How much writing will there be in take home assignments?


The mini assignments will involve a small amount of guided writing, from 1 to 2 sentences to a short paragraph no more than half a page long. You will be asked to submit the same paper twice, and the two paper assignments will each be 2 pages long, double-spaced (= approximately 500 words for each paper).



Learning outcomes, Activities, and Assessment.


Learning outcome

Learning activity


Identify the major disciplines that make up cognitive science and their unique contribution to cognitive science.


Lectures, videos, readings

In-class activities, paper assignments, midterm and final exam.

Evaluate the methodologies and interpretations of evidence in cognitive science

Lectures, videos, readings, in-class discussion, in-class activities

In-class activities, paper assignments, midterm and final exam

Apply concepts and methodologies from cognitive science to everyday problems

In-class discussion, in-class activities, readings, paper assignments

In-class activities, paper assignments, midterm and final exam

Develop critical thinking, analytical and writing skills applicable across academic and non-academic settings.


Lectures, mini assignments, paper assignments

Mini assignments, paper assignments.

Although the Psychology Department does not require instructors to adjust their course grades to conform to specific targets, the expectation is that course marks will be distributed around the following averages:

70%     1000-level and 2000-level courses
72%     2190-2990 level courses
75%     3000-level courses
80%     4000-level courses
The Psychology Department follows the University of Western Ontario grading guidelines, which are as follows (see ):

A+  90-100      One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level
A    80-89        Superior work that is clearly above average
B    70-79        Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory
C    60-69        Competent work, meeting requirements
D    50-59        Fair work, minimally acceptable
F    below 50    Fail


Midterm: Thursday, March 1st, 2018, 3:30pm, SSC 2028


Final: TBA (April 14-30, 2018)


All articles (empirical journal articles and popular press articles) and videos will be posted on OWL.






Assessment to submit

m=mini assignments (take home);

q = quiz (in-class)



Introduction, cognitive science of learning





History of cognitive science, overview of different approaches

Miller (2003).


Marcus et al. (2014). How to study the brain?

(The Chronicle of Higher Education).


Video: The cognitive science perspective: reverse-engineering the mind.

(Tenenbaum, talk at CCN 2017, 41 minutes).


m1-reading papers



Object perception

Excerpts from Rosch et al. (1976).

m2-summarizing paper



Object perception

Grill-Spector & Kanwisher (2000).


Teaching machines to draw. Google research blog.


q1 (in-class)



Object perception and Language

Smith, Jones, & Landau (1992).



m3 – argument structure



Object perception and Language

Video: How to grow a mind
(Tenenbaum, 00:00 to 17:59)


Xu & Tenenbaum (2007).

Initial paper (500 words)














Menninger, K. (1969). Number words and number symbols: A cultural history of numbers (p. 1-38 - “the number sequence”).


q2 (in-class)




Wynn (1990).


m4-data presentation




Biro & Matsuzawa (1999).


Ball (2017). How natural is numeracy? (Aeon).

Revised paper (500 words)




Marcus & Miller (2012). Did humans invent music? (The Atlantic).


Video: Cross-cultural variation in music perception: Evidence from native Amazonians
(McDermott, talk at CUNY 2017, 45:20 - 1:07:39).


Mehr, Song, & Spelke. (2017). For 5-month-old infants, melodies are social.


q3 (in-class)




Hauser & McDermott (2003)



Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offenses. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offenses because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offense are described at the following link:

As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offenses. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and

Possible penalties for a scholastic offense include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University.


Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 

Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation:


Office of the Registrar web site:

Student Development Services web site:

Please see the Psychology Undergraduate web site for information on the following:

- Policy on Cheating and Academic Misconduct
- Procedures for Appealing Academic Evaluations
- Policy on Attendance
- Policy Regarding Makeup Exams and Extensions of Deadlines
- Policy for Assignments
- Short Absences
- Extended Absences
- Documentation
- Academic Concerns
- 2017 Calendar References

No electronic devices, including cell phones and smart watches, will be allowed during exams.



Biro, D., & Matsuzawa, T. (1999). Numerical ordering in a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes): Planning, executing, and monitoring. Journal of Comparative Psychology113(2), 178.


Grill-Spector, K., & Kanwisher, N. (2005). Visual recognition: As soon as you know it is there, you know what it is. Psychological Science16(2), 152-160.


Hauser, M.D., & McDermott, J. (2003). The evolution of the music faculty: a comparative perspective. Nature neuroscience, 6(7), 663-668.


Menninger (1969). The Number Sequence. In Number words and number symbols: A cultural history of numbers (pp. 1-38). MIT Press.


Mehr, S. A., Song, L. A., & Spelke, E. S. (2016). For 5-month-old infants, melodies are social. Psychological science27(4), 486-501.


Miller, G.A. (2003). The cognitive revolution: a historical perspective. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7, 141-144.


Rosch, E., Mervis, C. B., Gray, W. D., Johnson, D. M., & Boyes-Braem, P. (1976). Basic objects in natural categories. Cognitive psychology8(3), 382-439.


Smith, L. B., Jones, S. S., & Landau, B. (1992). Count nouns, adjectives, and perceptual properties in children’s novel word interpretations. Developmental Psychology28(2), 273-286.


Xu, F., & Tenenbaum, J. B. (2007). Word learning as Bayesian inference. Psychological review114(2), 245.


Wynn, K. (1990). Children's understanding of counting. Cognition, 36(2), 155-193.