Forensic Psychology: Cognitive Sciences Resources
The article “What is Cognitive Science?” (see below) and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy both point to a interesting shift in the focus of psychology and other social sciences that began in the 1950s. For the first half of the 20th century, the trend in psychology had been to understand human beings solely based on their behavior. Linguist Noam Chomsky’s book Syntactic Structures, however, problematized this idea by suggesting that language ability was simply the result of learned behavior, but was instead based on a kind of inherent programming in the human mind. This publication was contemporary with the renewed interest among psychologists, such as George Miller, in the concept of the mind. The efforts of all these professionals from multiple fields led to the birth of what is now known as cognitive science.
Compiled on this page are resources that describe the cognitive sciences for newcomers and offer a survey of publications and institutions consulted by experts in their research. Because all levels of accessibility and depth are represented below, professional scholars, teachers, and students are likely to find the information useful. However, this page is part of a larger forensic psychology resource, and so the sites are also selected to act as primers for someone with a background or interest in psychology.
Introduction to Cognitive Science
Although scientists do not fully understand the nervous system, its basic mechanism of transmitting electrochemical signals from our sensory organs to our brains can be explained and demonstrated. However, more philosophical questions about how these well-analyzed physiological processes constitute a “mind” or “awareness” and give human beings and animals (to some extent) the ability to reason demand that researchers draw upon fields as diverse as psychology and linguistics to formulate their hypotheses. The broad area in which the humanities, social sciences, and life sciences overlap in order to explain human cognition may be called the cognitive sciences. In particular, some of the subjects studied include:
- Awareness, or perception: the way the five senses tell us about the world around us.
- Language: the ability to communicate and extrapolate complex ideas through the recognition of verbal signifiers and non-verbal cues (gestures, facial expressions, etc.).
- Memory and learning: the process of applying knowledge of past situations to help us make decisions about new ones.
- Thought and imagination: the problem-solving that can take place without direct sensory input.
Breakthroughs in cognitive science give back to the fields from which this interdisciplinary enterprise draws its experts. Some of the fields to which the cognitive sciences lend research results are:
- Artificial Intelligence, particularly how human pattern recognition, spatial awareness, and sentience can be emulated by a computer.
- Education, in which an understanding of cognition can inform visual learning, auditory learning, and so on.
- Neurology or neuroscience, which are the medical and physiological study of the brain, respectively
Cognitive science is also of particular interest to forensic psychologists because the idea of cognition is central to the legal definition of insanity and to a witness or suspect’s competency to stand trial. Although cognitive science is interdisciplinary, an entire sub-field called cognitive psychology indicates the level of importance cognition has in the work of mental health professionals. This is evident in the introductory resources gathered below, which show the intersection of psychology with other fields.
- Cognitive Science: Relationship of AI to Psychology and Neuroscience shows the intersection of these three disciplines as they affect creativity, feelings, knowledge, intelligence, and computation, and serves as a introduction to some of the key issues in cognitive science. A detailed bibliography follows the article and many of the works are annotated.
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Cognitive Science presents the field from the standpoint of philosophy, but acknowledges the contributions to cognitive science from linguistics, psychology, and computer science. Of the sources listed here, this is the most theoretical, but also the most basic. The 5-section article ends with a bibliography and a list of online resources.
- What is Cognitive Science? is a 60-page academic article by Lynn Nadel and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini from the University of Arizona in PDF format. The document provides the most comprehensive survey of the cognitive sciences’ origins and scope and ends with a bibliography that spans over 20 pages. Although written for a scholarly audience, the text does not presuppose academic knowledge of any field encompassed by cognitive science.
Presenting at conferences and symposiums, all of which are held by the following associations, is one of the ways that students in the cognitive sciences build their CVs. Attendance at these meetings is often a preliminary step to publication in one of the academic journals put out by these organizations as well. The Cognitive Science Society is the most all-encompassing while the others are slightly more specialized. Visitors to their websites who are not interested in membership can usually read the proceedings from their conferences, access their journals, and browse their link lists.
- The Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness is a multidisciplinary organization that focuses on perhaps the most mysterious aspect of human cognition, and draws members from fields as diverse as philosophy, medicine, and the humanities. The group holds yearly conferences, awards prizes for research, and maintains the journal, Psyche.
- The Cognitive Neuroscience Society, like the organization above, holds yearly conferences in which experts and students from multiple fields exchange research. The website also provides news and publishes a monthly newsletter with information about jobs in cognitive science and conferences. Neuroscience is the scientific study (as opposed to the medical study, neurology) of the brain and the nervous system.
- The Cognitive Science Society maintains two journals, Topics in Cognitive Science and Cognitive Science and publishes the proceedings of each annual conference, which can be accessed online. Otherwise, the website keeps a list of external resources and publications, a job board, information about funding opportunities for researchers, and advice for students entering the field.
- The European Society for Cognitive Psychology, which is in English, represents much of the research in the field in Europe by maintaining its own museum, newsletter, summer schools, and academic publication, The Journal of Cognitive Psychology. The society also awards research efforts, provides news about conferences, gives career advice, and maintains a directory of files for registered members.
Although there are numerous professional journals about cognitive science, the following were selected to provide a mix of frequently-cited publications that require subscriptions (Cognitive Science: A Multidisciplinary Journal and Topics in Cognitive Science) and journals that provide a substantial amount of free content. All of these publications are directed toward scholars, but because they are also multidisciplinary, a background in any particular field is not expected.
- Cognitive Science eventually became Topics in Cognitive Science after 2009, but its volumes from 1980 to 2008 are available for free online (with the exception of 1981) from a number of websites. 1980 through 2004 can be found on the CSJ Archive site while 2005-2007 are available on LEA Online. Finally, 2008’s issues are published by Informaworld.
- Cognitive Science: A Multidisciplinary Journal is put out by the Cognitive Science Society, Inc. and accepts submissions from writers in artificial intelligence, linguistics, psychology, education, and other fields. Issues are available by subscription (online or in print) from 1977 onward.
- Topics in Cognitive Science, maintained by the Cognitive Science Society and published by Wiley Online Library, is the new manifestation of the journal, Cognitive Science. The journal is published monthly and requires a subscription to view online.
The following resources are neither introductory nor aimed specifically at experts, but may be of interest to anyone seeking more information on cognitive science. References, such as Pierro Scaruffi’s bibliography and the Dictionary of Cognitive Science, are of broad appeal. And while cognitive science departments in universities are not rare, the centers at the University of California in San Diego and the University of Indiana provide an above-average number of resources for non-students.
- The Annotated Bibliography of Mind-related Topics, compiled by Pierro Scaruffi, is an enormous list of mostly books in alphabetical order, each of which is accompanied by a one-paragraph summary. The resource is an index to The Nature of Consciousness, of which numerous excerpts can be accessed on the site. Scaruffi’s essays on cognitive science are available online as well.
- The Centre for Psychology Resources: Cognitive is one section of a broad-based directory of links for the psychology department at Athabasca University in Canada. Besides general resources, the categories include “Consciousness,” “Language,” and “Memory.”
- Cognitive Science Movie Index, from the University of Indiana, lists movies that address artificial intelligence and consciousness, each of which is rated by users according to quality, relevance, and accuracy. Among the titles listed are 2001: A Space Odyssey and Videodrome.
- Dictionary of Cognitive Science borrows Google’s search engine to allow visitors to look up specific words, but otherwise organizes its terms in alphabetical order. Each entry is more like a short encyclopedia reference than a definition, some of which are multiple paragraphs long. The descriptions are then followed by short lists of references.
- UCSD Cognitive Science, besides offering the expected information about its cognitive science degree programs, also lists of a number of affiliated labs, each with its own website, that address specific areas of study in the cognitive sciences. These include the Brain and Cognition Lab, the Cognitive Development Laboratory, and the Interactive Cognition Lab.