PHIL/PSYCH 256 - Introduction to Cognitive Science

PHIL/PSYCH 256 - Introduction to Cognitive Science

Course information for PHIL/PSYCH, last taught Winter 2020.

PHIL/PSYCH 256: Introduction to Cognitive Science

Course outline

Instructor: Chris Eliasmith (email)

Office: E7 6324

Office Hours: Wed 3:00p-4:00p, or by appointment

TA: Jessica Oddan (email)

Office: HH 337

Office Hours: Wed 230p-3:30p, or by appointment

Class Times: Mon/Wed 1:00p-2:20p

Location: PAS 2083

Note: PHIL 256 and PSYCH 256 are interchangeable and count towards all plans in the same way


  1. Textbook: Mind - Introduction to Cognitive Science, 2nd Edition
  2. Course packet - Available from the bookstore

Important Dates:

  • Feb 12: Midterm
  • Apr 1: Final test
  • Mar 23: Final essay topic picked
  • Apr 8: Final essay due

Please use the course email, for all course related correspondence.

Coronavirus Response Essay

On the front of the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, printed in large, friendly letters are the words "Don't Panic." Arthur C. Clarke suggested this was perhaps the best advice that could be given to humanity, and I'm thinking it might be useful to remind ourselves of this in the current coronavirus situation. Now, don't get me wrong, the virus is serious, and we should treat it seriously. However, I don't think anyone needs reminding of that, because all we hear is how serious it is! This is the job of the media, governments, economists, and health professionals. They are doing that job extremely well, from what I can tell. In fact, if that's all we listened to, we might just panic.... Read more

Course Coronavirus Response Summary

I have prepared a mitigation plan so that all students have reasonable and fair opportunity to earn course credit and cover the majority of course material. I have been providing email updates, and updated the website to reflect changes. Should you have concerns about specific changes, please contact me by 4pm, March 20.

In summary, the plan includes syllabus updates and reducing the number of readings for the remaining topics. The commentaries we missed, will not be counted. Going forward commentaries are to be submitted on the day of the class and won't be accepted after 130p that day. The final test questions will be emailed to students (see below). The essay topics due date was move to Mar 23rd. The remaining lectures will be online via Learn.

Lecture Notes

The in-class lecture notes will be posted here before each class.


At the beginning of each lecture you are required to submit a ~100 word commentary on the claim, hypothesis, or issue that you found most interesting in the reading. Your commentary should identify the claim that interests you and the strongest evidence for and against it. The purpose of these commentaries is to ensure that everyone comes to class prepared for discussion. There is no penalty for missing 3. There will be approximately 20 over the term. Commentaries should be handed in on paper.

Covid update: For your daily commentaries, please send them to this email address (i.e.,, with the subject '[date] Daily Commentary' (e.g. '03/16/20 Daily Commentary' will be the subject for Monday). Please email it to me on the day of the class. Commentaries won't be accepted after 130p on the day of the class.


Possible questions for the midterm and final test will be posted here 1 week before the test. Instructions on the test will be something like "Six of the following ten questions will be on the midterm. You will have to answer five of them. Each will be worth 7% of your final grade. You will have 80 minutes to answer them in class" (details may change).

COVID-19 New Instructions for Final Test:

The final test will take place between 1p and 3p on Wed April 1st.  At 1p a list of six questions will be sent to this email list.  You will have to answer 5 of them.  They will cover these topics:

  • connectionism
  • dynamics/robotics
  • emotions
  • consciousness
  • next generation cognitive science

You are expected to send your answers to this email ( before 3p (2h for writing your answers).  You are expected to write your answers independently (no group work). You may use the course material (open book test). 

Final Essay Information

Note: The due date to choose and email me with an essay topic is March 23rd.

You will write a final essay for this class. Topics and lots of additional information can be found on the Essay Information page.

More information