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Michigan State UniversityCognitive Science Program

FAQ - Interdepartmental Undergraduate Minor and Graduate Specialization in Cognitive Science

What is cognitive science?

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes, whether embodied in the biological stuff of neurons in a brain, or in the silicon stuff of computer chips in an artificial brain-like system. Cognitive science encompasses multiple disciplines, including psychology, computer science, neuroscience, linguistics, zoology, education, and philosophy.

Why would I want a graduate specialization in cognitive science?

An interdisciplinary graduate specialization in cognitive science allows you to collaborate in research in fields outside of your department. You will be exposed to different ways of thinking that may help you develop your graduate thesis or prepare you for your Masters exams.

Why would I want an undergraduate minor in cognitive science?

An undergraduate minor in cognitive science is a good idea for a number of reasons. Taking courses and being involved in research in fields outside of your major will broaden your educational experience and give you valuable interdisciplinary research training. You will be exposed to different ways of thinking and problem solving that may give you novel insight in your major discipline. Having the cognitive science undergraduate minor on your transcript will highlight these factors to future employers and graduate schools.

What does the Cognitive Science Program do throughout the year?

Along with offering an undergraduate and graduate course on cognitive science, PSY/LIN/ZOL 463 and 867 respectively, the Cognitive Science Program hosts a number of events bringing researchers from other schools to MSU, as well as events to share the research of different members of the cognitive science program. One of the largest events is the Distinguished Speaker Series.

How do I declare the undergraduate minor in cognitive science?

Students should schedule an appointment or come to walk-in advising hours to discuss the requirements and declare the minor here.

Is there a deadline for applications?

No. You can declare the undergraduate minor whenever you want. It is best to do it as early as possible, however, to give yourself enough time to complete the requirements.

What majors can enroll in the undergraduate minor?

MSU undergraduate students from any department can declare the undergraduate minor.

What are the requirements of the undergraduate minor?

The Academic Program's list of undergraduate minor requirements can be found here.

Can I double count courses for my major or another undergraduate minor with those for the cognitive science undergraduate minor?

Double counting courses may be possible with the undergraduate minor. Please check with your academic adviser for approval, as this can vary by department.

If I don't see a specific class listed on the website, can it count towards the undergraduate minor?

If you believe a specific class may be suitable for the graduate specialization, please email Devin McAuley at, or for the undergraduate minor, please email The list of approved classes listed here will certainly count, but should not be considered comprehensive. From time to time, other courses that are in the domain of cognitive science are offered, but not necessarily listed on the website. Please note: Social Science Track students are not allowed course substitutions.

I took some of the cognitive science courses listed on the requirements for either the graduate specialization or undergraduate minor before I enrolled in the program. Will they still count?


I want to complete the Cognitive Science minor for my College of Social Science minor requirement. What do I need to know?

The College of Social Science Track minor does have slightly different requirements that the MSU Cognitive Science minor open to all majors. See the last paragraph here. To declare the College of Social Science Track minor, please meet with your social science major advisor.

I already have a different undergraduate minor in CSS. Can I do a cognitive science undergraduate minor?


Some of the approved cognitive science courses have prerequisites. Do I need to take them first?

Yes, unless you have approval from the instructor or department to have the prerequisites waived.

Who are the faculty members associated with the program?

The faculty members affiliated with the Cognitive Science Program are listed here.

What if Introduction to Cognitive Science (LIN 463) is full?

If the section of LIN 463 that you would like to take is full, you can request an override into the course. Priority is given for Cognitive Science minors and Linguistics majors/minors. Override requests can be submitted here, otherwise you will need to add yourself to the waitlist.
MSU CogSci in the News and Announcements

Prof. Jan Brascamp, director of the visual neuroscience lab, and research assistant Haley Frey have an exhibition titled "FOMO?: Change Blindness and Selective Attention" on display at the MSU Museum Friday, March 4, 2022 from noon - 1pm. This collaboration between Michigan State University's Psychology Department and the MSU Museum is a part of the larger exhibition "The Observation Experiment" taking place from February 22 - April 30, 2022. Registration for this event is required and can be filled out here.

ATTENTION: Because of the move to remote format for MSU classes and events during the Fall 2020 semester, cognitive science events will take place online until further notice. Please see specific event pages for more details on remote attending.

Due to the novel coronavirus, all cognitive science events will be cancelled or postponed until further notice. We will release more information on new dates for postponed events as they are rescheduled. For official updates and information on MSU's response to the coronavirus, visit

Graduate student Stella (Cheng) Qian , member of the Brascamp lab for Visual Neuroscience, is the recipient of an Elsevier/Vision Research Travel Award for the 2019 Meeting of the Vision Sciences Society. [link]

Prof. Aline Godfroid was the recipient of the 2019 TESOL Award for Distinguished Research. The award was granted by the TESOL organization for her study "Incidental vocabulary learning in a natural reading context: An eye-tracking study", which was published in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. The article was selected by the organization as the best TESOL-related, empirical research article appearing in 2018. [link]

Graduate student Kaylin Smith, member of the Phonetics and Phonology group at MSU, is the recipient of an International Phonetic Association Student Award for the 2019 International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, which takes place August 5-9th in Melbourne, Australia.

Prof. Jan Brascamp , as instructor of the Cognitive Psychology honors course, had an exhibition titled The Art of Psychology of Perception on display at the MSU Broad Art Lab. This was a collaboration between the Psychology department and the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. The exhibition was active from December 15th, 2018 until April 7, 2019. Rather than educating psychology students from utilizing a traditional art history overview, the students assessed the works on display using their own disciplinary background and perspective. [link]

Prof. Arun Ross was one of four panelists in a BBC Newshour Extra program titled Facing the Future, moderated by journalist Owen Bennet Jones. The panel discussed advancements made from automated face recognition and also personal privacy and biometrics. [link]

Prof. William Hartmann was awarded the 2017 Acoustical Society of America (ASA) Gold Medal for his contributions to the field of acoustics. His research has dealt with the perceptual analysis of sounds from varying sources, processing pitch, how humans localize sounds in space, and more. [link]

Profs. Devin McAuley and Natalie Phillips received an NSF Grant, The Role of Narrative in Music Perception, to study the factors which shape narrative listening to music and the relationship between narrative listening and other aspects of musical perception. [link]

Prof. Arun Ross and his colleague from NYU have had their research on the security of mobile fingerprint scanning featured in The New York Times, MSU Today, Popular Science, Homeland Security News Wire, and Science 360 News.

Professors Arun Ross, Xiaoming Liu, and Anil Jain received a 4-year grant from IARPA to conduct research on Presentation Attack Detection for fingerprint, face and iris biometric systems. [link]

CSE student Thomas Swearingen and his adviser Prof. Arun Ross won the runner up award for best paper at ISBA 2017. [link]

Research on laptop use and classroom learning by Prof. Susan Ravizza, Mitchell Uitvlugt, and Prof. Kim Fenn was featured in US News, BYU Radio, The Conversation, and numerous higher education journals [1, 2, 3, 4].

Prof. Cristina Schmitt received an NSF Grant, Effects of Variation and Variability in the Acquisition of Two Dialects of Spanish, to study first language acquisition of Spanish in the context of variability caused by contact between two very different varieties of Spanish: Paraguayan Spanish, which is heavily influenced by Guaraní (an indigenous language), and Rioplatense Spanish (spoken in Buenos Aires). [link]

Prof. Aline Godfroid received a Language Learning Early Career Research Grant for her validation project on "Measuring implicit and explicit L2 knowledge: Synthesizing 12 years of research."

Prof. Mark Becker has published five papers so far this year in Perception,Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance,Packaging Technology and Science,Visual Cognition, and Applied Ergonomics.

Sunpreet Arora and Anil Jain were part of a team that won Best Paper at BioSig 2016 for their paper titled "3D Whole Hand Targets: Evaluating Slap and Contactless Fingerprint Readers".

Dr. Anil Jain was part of a team that won Best Poster at BioSig 2016 for a poster titled "Advances in Capturing Child Fingerprints: A High Resolution CMOS Image Sensor with SLDR Method".

Dr. Anil Jain and Dr. Arun Ross were awarded a three-year NSF grant under the Secure & Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program for their proposal entitled "Imparting Privacy to Biometric Data in Cyberspace".

Dr. Arun Ross (with Dr. Nasir Memon, NYU) was awarded a three-year NSF grant for their project entitled "The Master Print: Investigating and Addressing Vulnerabilities in Fingerprint-based Authentication Systems".

Science writer Carl Sherman's story on stuttering for the Dana Foundation website, titled Seeking Clues to Stuttering Deep Within the Brain, featured research by Prof. Devin McAuley.

Summer 2016
Dr. Mark Becker was invited by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to present his work investigating individual differences in cognition and personality that predict rare target detection at their Workshop on Developing Personnel Selection Tools for Forensic Scientists.

Summer 2016
Prof. Mark Reimers and colleague Bruce McNaughton received an NSF grant to study the dynamics of hippocampal-cortical communication during memory formation and recall.

Summer 2016
Prof. Susan Ravizza became a senior editor for the journal Brain Research.

Summer 2016
Prof. Mark Reimers received a Templeton Foundation grant to study the molecular coherence of genetic variants related to behavioral traits, including IQ.

For older news, check out our news archive here.