The Major in Cognitive Science

To declare your major, follow this link.

Logistical Matters

For advising information about the SAS undergraduate major in Cognitive Science, general remarks about the study of Cognitive Science, and the principles that underpin our curriculum, please contact Program Director Dr. Charles Yang or Associate Director Dr. Russell Richie.

For general program information, please contact Program Manager Jessica Marcus:

You do not need to meet with the Program or Associate Directors before declaring. Optionally, you may request a meeting with us after declaring to plan your path through the major.

The BA in Cognitive Science in the College requires a total of 16 unique course units:

  • ONE credit for the core course COGS 1001,
  • SIX credits in the breadth requirement,
  • and NINE credits in a concentration area chosen by the student.

See Guidelines for Study Abroad in Cognitive Science.

Core Course: 1 credit

The interdisciplinary field of Cognitive Science is surveyed in the following course, which should normally be your first stop if you are interested in the major.

The core course is offered every year in the Fall term ONLY. The course will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:45-3:15pm. 

  • Introduction to Cognitive Science (COGS 1001/CIS 1400/LING 1005/PHIL 1840/PSYC 1333)

Breadth Requirement: 6 credits

To ensure more substantive knowledge of the wide-ranging fields that contribute to Cognitive Science, all students must take one course from each of the following six areas. The breadth requirement classes do not count (again) toward the concentrations. Please note that the courses listed are those typically used for the breadth requirement.  Almost all PSYC and PHIL classes accepted in the concentrations listed below can be used to satisfy the breadth requirements as well. To determine whether a course meets the breadth requirement for the COGS major, please the program director ( or associate director (

  • Psychology (PSYC 0001, PSYC 1310)
  • Computation (CIS 1100, CIS 1200, CIS 1210)
  • Language (LING 0001)
  • Philosophy (PHIL 1170, PHIL 1710, PHIL 1800, PHIL 2260, PHIL 2640; any PHIL class listed below works as well)
  • Neuroscience (NRSC 2249/PSYC 1230, NRSC 1110/BIOL 1110/PSYC 1210)
  • Mathematics (STAT 1110, MATH 1400, MATH 1410/1510)

Advanced Placement credit will not be counted toward the major requirements.

Concentration: 9 credits

Beyond the more structured breadth requirements, the student chooses one of four concentrations. The three main concentrations are Cognitive Neuroscience, Computation and Cognition, Language and Mind.  They are broad enough that virtually all interests in cognitive science can be sufficiently served but a special Independent Concentration constructed to meet a set of interests can be pursued in consultation with the Program Director or Associate Director.

The Program Director and Associate Director advise students when they are first considering the major and while still fulfilling the breadth requirements; handles administrative duties such as major declaration and certification; and is the final authority in all matters relating to the major requirements. When looking for classes for your own concentration, keep in mind that many classes from other concentrations often work as well. Sometimes a class is cross-listed in multiple departments: it does not matter which one your class is registered under.  To determine whether a specific course works for yours, please contact the Program Director at, or the Associate Director at

Cognitive Science has become even more interdisciplinary as the field matures. We recognize the importance of specialized skills, especially those honed in the biological, economic, computational and mathematical sciences, in cognitive research, education, and application. At the same time, we strive to ground our program in the empirical studies of cognition in Linguistics, Psychology, and Neuroscience; tools are important, but we also need to know what they are for. In light of these considerations, we broadly limit technical courses — generally in Biology, Chemistry, Computer and Information Science, Mathematics, Statistics, etc. — to no more than 4, in any combination, among the 9 concentration credits. A technical class is one which provides useful background for the student’s concentration, but contains no or virtually no content on the empirical study of cognitive science. For students in the Computation and Cognition concentration, a fifth credit in Artificial Intelligence, or other topics directly related to human cognition, may be allowed upon approval. Those four credits are usually drawn from the table of courses below; for suitability of courses not listed below, please contact the Program Director or Associate Director.

We would like our students to maximize their educational experience in the Cognitive Science Program by forming a deeper understanding of some select topics or themes. To this end, we suggest that the course selection, similar to other Majors, consists of a mix of lower-level introductory classes and higher-level advanced courses, including graduate level courses (subject to prerequisites and/or instructor’s permission). We especially advise against taking introductory classes that have significant overlapping materials, including similar courses that are offered in different departments. Please contact the Program Director or Associate Director should these concerns arise during your course planning and selection process.

Many students come to cognitive science with applied interests in technology, medicine, business, and more. While our focus in COGS is mainly on thebasic science of how the mind works, some classes that we accept for the concentration touch on applied matters, or may serve as a basis for later applications. Students with interest in natural language processing can do a concentration in language and mind; students with interest in AI, ML, or behavioral economics can do a concentration in computation and cognition; students interested in a career in medicine or healthcare can do a concentration in cognitive neuroscience.

Currently, only the Cognitive Neuroscience concentration has a specific required course: Introduction to Brain and Behavior (NRSC 1110); but in many instances the advisor will identify one or more courses essential to the track of interest to the student. For example, at least one course in Statistics, such as STAT 1110 or higher, is strongly recommended to students specializing in Cognitive Neuroscience.

The table below indicates courses that have historically been approved for Concentration requirements. We strive to keep this table comprehensive as well as up to date under our general principles (see here and especially the distinction between descriptive and prescriptive aspects). The courses in Psychology suitable for Cognitive Science generally have an odd course number; they are courses in the area of Brain, Cognitive, and Decision science, following the research program and numbering convention in the Department of Psychology.

Please note: Nearly all COGS-eligible classes at Penn are listed below. To find out whether a course not listed here will be approved for the COGS major, please contact Dr. Charles Yang at, or Dr. Russell Richie at

Additional information

• The minimum grade for any course counted toward the COGS program is C-. Students must have a GPA of 2.0 in courses counted towards the major in order to be admitted to the COGS major.

• Students who wish to enroll in COGS 3999 (Independent Study) or COGS 3998 (Senior Thesis) must develop a research plan with their research advisor prior to enrolling in either course. Click here for more information.

• Students who wish to receive a degree with honors must have a minimum GPA of 3.5 for courses counted toward the major, and 3.0 cumulative for all courses. The student must also complete a senior-year research project on a topic in cognitive science approved by the Program Director or Associate Director and supervised by the concentration advisor. Credit can be received by enrolling in COGS 3998 (Senior Thesis); see the Program Director or Associate Director for details. Typically, a thesis of approximately 30-40 pages is expected.

Courses fulfilling COGS concentration requirements

You should rely on this table, not PATH@Penn, to determine what courses satisfy each concentration!

Course Offered in Spring 2024 Cognitive Neuroscience Computation and Cognition Language and Mind Technical course
Artificial Intelligence (CIS 4210/5210) X X
Applied Machine Learning (CIS 4190/5190) X X X
Advanced Topics in Algorithms (CIS 3340) X X
Animal Models of Neuropsychiatric Disorders (NRSC 4470) X
Introduction to Computational Biology & Biological Modeling (BIOL 4536/5535/CIS 4360) X
Automata, Computability, and Complexity (CIS 2620) X X X
Behavioral Economics and Psychology (PPE 3003/PSYC 2750) X X X
Behavioral Economics (ECON 4160) X
Big Data, Memory, and the Human Brain (COGS 4290) X X
Biological Bases of Psychological Disorders (NRSC 4480) X
Cognitive Development (PSYC 2377) X X X
Computational Linguistics (CIS 5300) X X X
Computational Neuroscience lab (NRSC 3334/PSYC 3281) X X X
Computer Analysis and Modeling of Biological Signals and Systems (LING 5250) X X
Decision Processes (OIDD 2900) X X
Decision Making (ECON 4140) X
Developmental Psycholinguistics (LING 5700) X X
Discrete Probability, Stochastic Processes and Statistical Inference (CIS 2610) X X
Drugs, Brain and Mind (NRSC 2270/PSYC 2250) X
Dynamics of Language (LING 5150) X X
Evolution of Behavior (PSYC 2220/BIOL 2140) X X
Experimental Approaches to the Study of Language (LING 1700) X X
Introduction to Language Change (LING 2100) X X X
Construct a Language (LING 2042) X
Structure of American Sign Language (LING 2047) X X
Phonetics I: Experimental (LING 2210) X X
Phonetics II: Data Science (LING 2220) X X X
Language, Cognition and Culture (LING 1720) X X
Experimental Sociolinguistics (LING 3640) X
Sociophonetics (LING 3650) X
Experiments in the Study of Meaning (LING 3850) X X
Formal Logic I = Ideas in Logic and Computation (PHIL 1710/LGIC 1710) X X X
Formal Logic II = Logic I (PHIL 4723) X X
Functional Imaging of the Human Brain (NRSC 4421) X X
Game Theory (ECON 4100) X X
Human Memory (PSYC 2300) X X
Introduction to Algorithms (CIS 3200) X X X
Introduction to Brain and Behavior (NRSC 1110/BIOL 1110/PSYC 1210) X X X
Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience (NRSC 2249/PSYC 1230) X X X
Introduction to Developmental Psychology (PSYC 1777) X X
Introduction to Formal Linguistics (LING 0500) X X
Introduction to Sociolinguistics (LING 0600) X X
Introduction to Syntax (LING 2500) X X
Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (PHIL 2640) X X
The Keys to Language Structure (and How to Use Them) (LING 1500) X X
Judgment and Decisions (PSYC 2737) X X X
Language Acquisition (LING 2700) X X X
Language and Brain (LING 0740) X X X
Seminar: Thought without Language (PSYC 3271) X X X
Language and Thought (PSYC 1310) X X X
Logic II (PHIL 4722) X X X
Logic in Computer Science (CIS 4820) X X
Machine Learning (CIS 5200) X X X
Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science (CIS 1600) X X X
Memory (PSYC 1530) X X
Advanced Seminar in Psychology: Modeling Choice Behavior
(PSYC 3803/PPE 4803)
Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology (BIOL 2110/NRSC 2110) X
Morphology I (LING 3410) X X X
Music and the brain: the new and old science of music (NRSC 4450) X
Neural Systems of Behavior (BIOL 4110) X X
Neurobiology of Autism (NRSC 4430) X X X
Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (NRSC 4442/PSYC 3301/BIOL 4142) X X
Neurodegenerative Diseases (NRSC 4475) X X
Theory of Networks (NETS 3120) X X X
Algorithmic Game Theory (NETS 4120) X X X
Experimental Methods in Synaptic Physiology (NRSC 3492) X X
Neuroethology (NRSC 2233) X X X
Functional Neuroanatomy (NRSC 3310) X X
Neuroeconomics (PSYC 3790) X X
Neurolinguistics (LING 3740) X X X
Neuroscience and Society (PSYC 2288) X
Origins of Analytic Philosophy (PHIL 4600) X X
Perception (PSYC 1340) X X
Philosophy & Visual Perception (PHIL 4843) X X X
Philosophy of Biology (PHIL 1830) X X X
Philosophy of Language (PHIL 4660) X X
Philosophy of Mathematics (PHIL 4770/6770) X X
Philosophy of Mind (PHIL 4640) X X
Philosophy of Perception (PHIL 3620) X X
Philosophy of Psychology (PHIL 4840) X X
Philosophy of Science (PHIL 1800) X X
Introduction to Epistemology and Metaphysics (PHIL 2620) X X X
Philosophy of Space and Time (PHIL 1810) X X
Introduction to Metaphysics (PHIL 2680) X X X
Phonetics I, II (LING 5210, 5220) X X
Phonology I, II (LING 5310, 5320) X X
Physical Models of Biological Systems (PHYS 2280) X
Physiology of Motivated Behaviors (NRSC 2227/PSYC 1212) X
Programming Languages and Techniques I/II (CIS 1200, CIS 1210) X X X
Probabilistic Models of Perception and Cognition (PSYC 7390) X X
Psycholinguistics (PSYC 3310) X X X
Psychology of Language (PSYC 2310/LING 1750) X X
Robotics: Planning Perception (CIS 3900) X X
Semantics I (LING 3810/5810) X X
Semantics II (LING 5820) X X X
Seminar in Neuroscience: The Moral Brain (PSYC 3230) X X
Consciousness Seminar in Cognitive Neuroscience (PSYC 3231) X X
Seminar in Cognitive Neuroscience: Brain Development (PSYC 3233) X
Neurological Insights into Cognition and Behavior Seminar (PSYC 3280) X X
Sleep and Memory (NRSC 4429) X X
Social Choice Theory (ECON 4120) X X
Sound Structure of Language (LING 2300) X X X
Strategic Reasoning (PPE 3001) X X
Probability (STAT 4300) X X X
Stochastic Processes (STAT 4330) X X
Introduction to Bayesian Data Analysis (STAT 4420) X X X
Syntax I, II (LING 5510, 5520) X X X
The Mental Lexicon (LING 5450) X X
Theoretical Neuroscience (PHYS 5585) X X X
Theory of Knowledge (PHIL 4620) X X
Theory of Computation (CIS 5110) X X
Theory of Machine Learning (CIS 6250) X X
Topics in Logic (PHIL 6720/MATH 6770) X X
Visual Neuroscience (PSYC 2240/NRSC 2217/VLST 2170) X X X
Visual Processing (NRSC 4417) X X
What is Meaning? (PHIL 2260) X X
What is Meaning? (PHIL 2660) X X
Wittgenstein: Mind and Language (PHIL 3200) X X