Cognitive science is the study of the mind and how it processes information. Cognitive science spans a wide range of topics from research on how information is consumed, represented and transformed.
Consumption of information deals with how information is communicated, received and understood by individuals. The representation side of cognitive science deals with how information is presented to the public once consumed. Finally, the transformation element of cognitive science deals with how information is understood by humans or through technology. With it covering a wide variety of disciplines, cognitive science crosses areas of science that relate to various levels of learning and scientific exploration.
The identification of cognitive science began in 1973 by Christopher Longuet-Higgins who was doing research into artificial intelligence. Although the term is fairly new, the ideology behind cognitive science can be traced back to ancient Greece. Philosophers like Plato discussed some of the theology that built the foundations of cognitive science. Centuries later, other philosophers such as Descartes and John Locke also formed theories related to cognitive science that helped establish the foundations of modern-day theory. Critics do suggest that although their theories helped to establish views on the topicm these philosophers were working with an entirely different set of tools and ideas than those of the modern-day cognitive scientist.
The fundamentals behind cognitive science started to take shape in the 1930s and 1940s when Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts started to investigate how the brain is organized. They were the founders of the understanding of the artificial neural networks which formed the basis of early thinking around cognitive science.
Technology has played an important role in the development of cognitive science. The invention of the computer in the middle of the 20th century helped to set the foundations of the computation aspect of cognitive science.
As the 20th century progressed, more research into cognitive science evolved. The ideas around the possibilities of artificial intelligence were a turning point in the ideology behind cognitive science. The studies undertaken by researchers such as Marvin Minsky developed the philosophy known as symbolic AI. There were a number of critics of this philosophy and further investigation found that AI had its scientific limitations.
A number of researchers believe that cognitive science can only be analyzed by looking at a number of levels of the brain and thinking patterns. This is due to the fact that individuals remember various elements of interactions, and a number of experiments have been designed to highlight these different levels of the brain. Many years of investigation and experimentation have been invested in the area of cognitive science.
When measuring these various levels, the accuracy of the response can be determined through measurement of individual neurons or neuron responses. Attempts at developing technology to identify neurons in the brain have been performed, but this is quite a challenge for scientists. In order to properly predict psychological action real-time technology would need to be developed. As technology advances, this may be possible. Scientists still state that if such a technology was developed it would still be impossible to know how a specific firing of a neuron equates to an observed behavior.
This thinking is the reasoning behind why many scientists feel that observation on two levels is necessary. This is known as a functional description of the process. The three levels, developed by David Marr, that are typically analyzed are the computational theory, representation and algorithm and hardware implementation.
Computational theory involves identifying the goals of a particular computation. Representation and algorithm provides insight into these areas and how they contribute to utilization in the mind. Hardware implementation involves the reality behind the representation and algorithm stage of the process.
The actual term cognitive science is derived from the fact that cognitive represents any mental operation or structure that has the ability to be investigated closely by researchers. It enables the investigation into finding deep insights from the human brain and how it translates into the thoughts and actions of human beings.