Philosophical and Formal Foundations of Cognitive Science

Philosophical issues pervade cognitive science. Among those studied in our department are:

  • The nature of mental representations and their neural realization
  • The structure of the computational architecture supporting cognition (including linguistic theories such as Optimality Theory)
  • The pervasive methodological challenges of arguing, from behavioral and neural data to characterization of mental structures.

The research of this group is unusual in that a strong empirical and computational base is combined with a serious commitment to fully characterizing the assumptions and implications of cognitive theory. Developing argumentation skills is a central goal of the training program.

Vision and Space

Manipulation of spatial information is central to a broad range of cognitive functions, including navigation and way finding, recognizing and interacting with objects, and even reading.

Several lines of research in our department probe the mental representation and processing of spatial information, exploring such topics as:

  • Frames of reference and forms of location representation in the visual system
  • Representation of object shape and orientation
  • Development of spatial competence
  • Relationships between language and spatial processes
  • Navigation through local environments.

Although much of the research focuses on visuo-spatial cognition, other forms of spatial representation and processing are also addressed (e.g., body surface representations in the somatosensory system).

Methods include:

  • Cognitive neuropsychological studies of brain-damaged patients with unilateral spatial neglect or impairments in visual location perception
  • Studies of spatial development in normal children, and in children with Williams syndrome
  • Studies of navigation and other aspects of spatial cognition in normal adults.


See the detailed overview of linguistics.