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Cognitive Modelling


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Professor Rick Cooper
  • Assessment: a two-hour examination (80%) and poster presentation (20%)

Module description

Computational modelling has become an important tool in psychological science for specifying theories in concrete terms and exploring the consequences of complex theories. It has been used to help understand developmental processes, cognitive processes, neural processes, social processes and neurodiversity. This module will introduce a number of different types of computational model that have been used to model some of these processes. We will introduce the basic principles and approaches to modelling in psychological science, and explore a selection of models in depth, focusing on their strengths as well as their weaknesses, and on the outstanding questions that modelling might usefully address.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Levels of description and the purpose of computational modelling
  • Production systems and rule-based models
  • Interactive activation and competition
  • Parallel distributed processing: modelling pattern associations
  • Parallel distributed processing: modelling temporal processes
  • Modelling decision processes: drift diffusion models
  • Agent-based modelling of social cognition
  • Bayesian modelling
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Approaches to model evaluation

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • discuss the differences between different modelling paradigms (such as connectionist modelling, rule-based modelling, agent-based modelling, etc.)
  • explain the operation of one or more models of language processes, reasoning processes, decision making, cognitive development and social interaction
  • describe how learning may occur in different computational approaches to cognition (e.g. connectionist systems, rule-based systems, reinforcement learning, Bayesian learning)
  • evaluate simple computational models in terms of appropriate dimensions, such as representational commitments, cognitive and/or neural plausibility, empirical adequacy, and utility
  • present a description and evaluation of a contemporary model of a psychological process in the form of a poster.