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Last Update: 5 August 2016

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The Center in Context,
by Len Talmy, Director Emeritus

The Center for Cognitive Science is the representation on the University at Buffalo campus of an academic and private-sector movement, named "cognitive science",  that has been expanding over the last two decades both in the U.S. and abroad.  The aim of this development is to investigate the nature of cognition, i.e., of  intellective processes as exhibited either by the human mind or by computer.  Most centrally, cognitive science is the study of how the mind works, both in  its conceptual organization and in its computational and neural infrastructure.  Accordingly, cognitive science has brought together researchers from a number of  traditionally separate disciplines -- primarily, computer science, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology , and neuroscience -- in order to build a new and unified understanding of  cognition that is compounded from the different disciplinary perspectives and  that moves beyond them.

In doing so, cognitive science has also been manifesting what has been a  change in the direction of research in the social and behavioral sciences in  this country: where previously the movement had been toward ever finer  disciplinary distinctions, there is now the reverse dynamic toward an  integration of the disciplines into a unified understanding.

Each of the disciplines within the social, behavioral, and computer sciences  includes certain research areas that pertain directly to cognition alongside  many other research areas that do not. Cognitive science in general and the  Center for Cognitive Science here in particular have promoted the development of  the cognitive portions of the different disciplines by bringing them together  across traditional boundaries. Consequently, a major contribution of the Center  here has been the promotion of research into the nature of mind in a way that would not be possible if the different  approaches to this issue had remained isolated within unrelated  surroundings.

The Center's Objectives

One long-term goal of the Center is to promote the development of research  networks and of new research activities in cognitive science, both locally and  across institutions. To do this, the Center engages in a number of activities:

It organizes colloquia, discussions, workshops, and conferences that bring together both members of the campus and invited visitors working on  cutting-edge issues in cognitive science.

It helps to establish novel cross-disciplinary linkups among faculty and students that may result in research projects and grant proposals , and it serves as an umbrella for  several ongoing active research groups.

It conducts both an undergraduate  major leading to a B.A. in Cognitive Science and a program of  graduate tracks in cognitive science.

It sponsors a Graduate  Student Association for Cognitive Science, composed of students from  different departments who meet to discuss current cross-disciplinary issues.

It publishes a  technical report series and has arranged exchanges of this series with  comparable cognitive science series from other institutions.

It provides a central meeting place -- including  a library and conference room -- that serves as a nexus for  cross-disciplinary study and communication.

And it has been developing an atmosphere of community and perhaps an air of  excitement, that conduce to productive interactions.

A second long-term goal of the Center is the development of an academic  curriculum in cognitive science.

A parallel objective, one that has already begun to be realized, is to  attract to the affiliated UB departments a still higher caliber of students,  drawn by the intellectual appeal of the Center. The international caché that the Summer  Institute in Cognitive Science and its surrounding publicity has brought to  UB can be expected to continue the uptrend in the caliber of students attracted  here.

And a third long-term goal is to develop for the UB Center an international  reputation as a major research center in cognitive science.

Our main endeavor to that end has been the organizing of the first  international Summer Institute in Cognitive Science, which took place at UB  throughout the month of July, 1994.

Some eighty  top names in Cognitive Science-related fields took part as plenary  speakers,coursework  instructors, and workshop  presenters.

Attending the Institute were some four hundred registrants, coming from  thirty-two different countries.

Apart from the Institute, reports by our CogSci faculty members on what they  have heard from others at outside conferences, as well as items in electronic  news groups, indicate that the Center's reputation as a progressive and  intellectually active cognitive science center has been steadily rising.

Word of the Center is in part carried by visiting speakers who come away  impressed with our engagement with their ideas.

Further, a number of individuals around the country receive our e-mail  announcements of events.

Our recently produced brochure and poster further outside familiarity with  our program.

And, finally, the Center has begun to gain a presence in the local Buffalo  community with our Distinguished Speaker Series: The speaker in Spring 2010 was Jeff Elman, Dean, Division of Social Science; Co-Director, Kavli Institute for Brain & Mind; Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science; Chancellor's Associates Endowed Chair; and University of California, San Diego. Other speakers so far  have been: Dedre Gentner; Eve Clark, Philip Johnson-Laird, Ray Jackendoff, Terrence Deacon , John Searle, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Dennett, Jerome Brunner, Melissa  Bowerman, Roger Schank, and Michael Posner.

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