Neil A. Stillings
Professor of Psychology, Emeritus
School of Cognitive Science


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History of the School of Cognitive Science at Hampshire College

I was a co-founder, faculty member, and serial dean of the School of Cognitive Science at Hampshire for what turned out to be its entire history. Following my retirement, I wrote a history of the School that recounts its intellectual and institutional trajectory.

Book: Cognitive Science: An Introduction (MIT Press)

As first author and editor, I worked with colleagues at Hampshire and the University of Massachusetts to write Cognitive Science: An Introduction (MIT press, 1st edition 1987, 2nd edition 1995), the first comprehensive, integrated textbook in cognitive science. The book preceded the rise of cognitive neuroscience and the transformation of artificial intelligence into an engineering field focused on circumscribed problems that can be attacked with statistical methods. In that sense it is an accessible snapshot of cognitive science at the end of the era founded by people like Herbert Simon, Allen Newell, Noam Chomsky, George Miller, John McCarthy, and even David Marr.

Although the book is out of date, it contains a good deal of material that is still useful, including introductions to the computational framework and levels of analysis; symbolic AI; simple generative grammar; the psychology of concepts; connectionism; neural computation; and Marr's approach to vision.

Culture, Mind, Brain, & Development

I am a co-founder and was a member of the founding steering committee of Hampshire's Culture, Brain, & Development Program (CBD), founded in 2003 with a grant from The Foundation for Psychocultural Research. The CBD program received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a national workshop on Culture, Mind, Brain, & Development, held May 31-June 3, 2007. A description of the workshop is here.

The Cognitive Science of Science Learning

Since the 1990s the NSF has been interested in bringing the cognitive and learning sciences to bear on science teaching and learning. I was fortunate enough to be a part of these efforts in the late 90s and early 2000s.

In 2008-09 I was a member of  an NSF-sponsored working group to develop a Synthesis of Research on Learning & Thinking in the Geosciences. I wrote one chapter of the book that resulted from the project and co-wrote a paper describing the findings of the project, which appeared in EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union.

With Loretta Jones and Ken Jordan I co-organized the 2001 NSF-funded National Workshop on Molecular Visualization in Science Education.  The workshop brought together research chemists, leading chemistry educators, and cognitive scientists to discuss the challenges of using visualizations of various kinds to understand phenomena at the molecular level. I wrote the sections on visualization in the final report.

With Cathy Manduca and Dave Mogk I co-organized the 2002 NSF-funded National workshop, Bringing Research on Learning to the Geosciences, which brought together geoscientists and cognitive scientists to discuss the challenges of educating students about the history of the Earth and the complex systems that influence the continuing evolution of the planet and its atmosphere. As can be seen from the website, the workshop spawned many associated and follow-up activities and meetings. The final report of the workshop is here.

NSF Report on Undergraduate
Cognitive Science

In 1993 I organized and chaired a national workshop on undergraduate cognitive science. The workshop was attended by faculty representatives from a broad selection of college and university cognitive science programs and from all cognitive science disciplines. In spite of its age I believe that the final report of the workshop remains an excellent summary of the promise and challenges of undergraduate cognitive science education.

Program Planning Checklist
for Undergraduate Cognitive Science

In consulting with various institutions that were planning or evaluating their cognitive science programs I developed a checklist of issues to consider. The list is based on the NSF workshop above, on my consulting experience, and on experiences at Hampshire. Everything on the list should be recognizable to an experienced faculty member. The list is intended as a useful set of reminders.

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