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Cognitive Sciences

Cognitive Science is the study of intelligent systems like the human mind, brain, computers. The core question that Cognitive Science seeks to answer is how the mind (or other intelligent systems) represents and manipulates knowledge and how mental representations and processes are realized in the brain. The field is highly transdisciplinary in nature and includes traditional disciplines like Philosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience, Computer science, Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Robotics, Economics, Social Sciences and others.  Its intellectual origins are in the mid-1950s when researchers in several fields began to develop theories of mind based on complex representations and computational procedures. Cognitive science has unifying theoretical ideas, but we have to appreciate the diversity of outlooks and methods that researchers in different fields bring to the study of mind and intelligence. Although cognitive psychologists today often engage in theorizing and computational modeling, their primary method is experimentation with human participants. Philosophers do not perform systematic empirical observations or construct computational models, although there has been a recent rise in work in experimental philosophy. But philosophy remains important to cognitive science because it deals with fundamental issues that underlie the experimental and computational approach to mind. Abstract questions such as the nature of representation and computation need not be addressed in the everyday practice of psychology or artificial intelligence, but they inevitably arise when researchers think deeply about what they are doing. Philosophy also deals with general questions such as the relation of mind and body and with methodological questions such as the nature of explanations found in cognitive science. In its weakest form, cognitive science is just the sum of the fields mentioned: psychology, artificial intelligence, linguistics, neuroscience, anthropology, and philosophy. Interdisciplinary work becomes much more interesting when there is theoretical and experimental convergence on conclusions about the nature of mind. For example, psychology and artificial intelligence can be combined through computational models of how people behave in experiments. The best way to grasp the complexity of human thinking is to use multiple methods, especially psychological and neurological experiments and computational models. Theoretically, the most fertile approach has been to understand the mind in terms of representation and computation.

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Disciplines Covered in Cognitive Sciences

Discipline which have to do with human cognition or intelligent systems, in one form or other, can be studied under Cognitive Sciences.

All Life Sciences, Humanities and Computational Sciences 

E.g. 

1. Philosophy, Sociology, Economics, Human Resource Management, Linguistics, Yoga, Social Sciences, Marketing etc.

2. Psychology, Neuroscience, Bio-technology, Genetics etc.

3. Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Robotics etc.

Human Factors and Ergonomics

The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics as, “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data, and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.” This definition identifies the importance of human-centered design.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) builds on this concept to define the role of ergonomics in the workplace. According to AIHA, the goal of ergonomics is to decrease risk of musculoskeletal injuries and illness, decrease worker discomfort and improve the quality of work life, and to improve worker performance. This is an essential aspect of ergonomics. The reason we strive for a human-centered approach to the design of work is to both minimize the risk of injuries and illness, and to improve quality of life and performance. To put it simply, ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. Humans naturally lean towards efficiency. We tend to take the path of least resistance and to do things that reduce our exposure to physical risk for harm as long as it doesn’t slow us down. When we propose solutions that make work easier, safer, and faster, we create a pathway to success for the worker and for businesses. ‘Human factors’ is another phrase for the concept of ergonomics. Conventionally, the two are sometimes differentiated according to the physical and psychological aspects of the human. Psychological capabilities are more commonly associated with human factors, while physical aspects are more commonly associated with ergonomics. But, at the end of the day, the two terms can be considered synonyms.Regardless of whether you prefer human factors, ergonomics, or human factors and ergonomics (HF/E), comprehensive practice requires expertise from multiple disciplines including industrial design, psychology, biology, medicine and occupational health, physiology, anatomy, and engineering.

 
 

Cognitive Sciences in India

The Department of Science and Technology recognizes the Cognitive Science as one of the four pillars of knowledge, which are crucial for Indian academics and industry, along with Nano, Bio, and information technologies. Cognitive Science is a emerging discipline in India and only a handful of institutes offer courses in cognitive sciences, leading to high demand of cognitive science professionals and academicians, but low supply of human resources with specialization in cognitive sciences. CPCS, Panjab University is the only Institute in India which is offering a specialized industry application of cognitive sciences as Human factors & Ergonomics.

 Placement Opportunities

According to a report published by KPMG on the job prospects emerging areas in next five years, Cognitive Science happens to be amongst the top five fields where number of jobs would much more than the professionals available as a result huge shortage of experts would be there in market. In India, the demand for Cognitive Science professionals would be around 300,000 by 2021 while the global demand would be around 2 million in next few years. There is a growing need for experts trained in human factors. Opportunities are expanding in all employment sectors, including industry, government, and academia. Nonprofits and consulting firms also employ human factors specialists. Some of the common jobs which Cognitive Science professionals are offered in Industry are Cognitive engineer, Customer-experience specialist, Ergonomist, Human-factors psychologist, Knowledge engineer, Usability specialist, Usability engineer, User-experience specialist and User-interface designer.