Cognitive Science


Interdisciplinary study of cognition across all learning/thinking entities

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … scope of possible action and interpretation
  • Knowing is … maintaining fitness (with situation)
  • Learner is … any self-modifying and situationally coupled unity (cognizing unity)
  • Learning is … adapting
  • Teaching is … triggering adaptations




Cognitive Science is the study of cognition in humans, non-human animals, and machines. Oriented by the conviction that cognition cannot be understood by studying a single level, Cognitive Science brings together psychology, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, anthropology, philosophy, and other domains. Typically, the foci of Cognitive Science are identified as learning, development, perception, attention, reasoning, emotion, consciousness, memory, language, creativity, and intelligence, and the goals of Cognitive Science are identified as better understanding the mind, advancing practical knowledge of learning, and developing intelligent devices. Associated constructs and discourses include:
  • Consciousness Studies – a multidisciplinary domain that focuses on the investigation of consciousness. Contributing fields include all those associated with Cognitive Science, with stronger representation from the humanities and social sciences, as well as well as art, religion, and mindfulness traditions.
  • Dimensions of Consciousness – assessable aspects of one’s consciousness, such as focus of attention, duration of focus, capacity to toggle among competing attentions, self-awareness, situational awareness, and mood
  • Double-Aspect Theory (Baruch Spinoza, mid-1600s) – the suggestion that mind and body are different aspects (or manifestations, or attributes) of the same substance
  • Hard Problem (David Chalmers, 2000s) – the problems that arise when attempting to study and explain subjective experience with objective methods and constructs.
  • Machine Consciousness (Artificial Consciousness) – either (1) a human-made system that is conscious, or (2) that aspect of Conscious Studies attempting to create such a system
  • Mind–Body Problem (Body–Mind Problem; Mind Control) – confusions, incongruities, and paradoxes that arise from the assumption that the mind and body are separate phenomena
  • Philosophy of Mind – a branch of philosophy that shares the concerns of Consciousness Studies. Foci include the nature and emergence of mind and the such functional associations as mind-and-body, thought-and-action, subjective-and-objective, and individual-and-collective.
Associated discourses and constructs that share Cognitive Science's commitment to transdisciplinarity include:
  • Cognitive Anthropology – a domain concerned with the implicit knowledge and other non-conscious habits of association that define and distinguish the perceptions of and relations within cultural groups. In addition to Cognitive Science, Cognitive Anthropology draws on history, sociology, anthropology, archaeology, musicology, and other domains.
  • Cultural Cognition – a specifical focus of Cognitive Anthropology, Cultural Cognition refers to the tendency to align one’s beliefs with claims that are consistent with one’s cultural identity, but that are contentious and, often, dangerous (e.g., regarding vaccines, gun ownership, environmental risks)


With regard to learning, Cognitive Science sets the gold standards at the moment on matters of both understanding the phenomenon and interdisciplinary research methodologies. Even so, and perhaps owing in part to the divergent perspectives represented in its constituent domains, its discourse is riddled with inconsistent themes and problematic notions. For example, some descriptions of the field focus on “mind” and human cognition, while others (as indicated above) project cognition as a much broader phenomenon. Further, it’s not unusual to come across assertions rooted in Representationalism, Cognitivism, and/or other debunked or limited-scientific models (e.g., asserting that learning is about acquiring, representing, processing, and performing other computational procedures on information).

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Christopher Longuet-Higgins; Daniel Dennett

Status as a Theory of Learning

Cognitive Science actually comprises several theories of learning. It is perhaps better understood in terms of the study of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Cognitive Science is not a theory of teaching, but its conclusions have served as the foundations of many sound (e.g., Neuroeducation) and not-so-sound (e.g., Brain-Based Learning) offerings.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Cognitive Science is a rigorously scientific domain, spanning a broad range of methodologies.


  • Cognitive Anthropology
  • Consciousness Studies
  • Cultural Cognition
  • Dimensions of Consciousness
  • Double-Aspect Theory
  • Hard Problem
  • Machine Consciousness (Artificial Consciousness)
  • Mind–Body Problem (Body–Mind Problem; Mind Control)
  • Philosophy of Mind

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2022). “Cognitive Science” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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