Overview of Concentrations

The CLPS department houses four specialized undergraduate concentrations (the equivalent of majors at other institutions). Though their coursework may overlap to a degree, these concentrations represent distinct paths to the study of mind, brain, behavior, and language.

Behavioral Decision Sciences

The study of decision making covers descriptive questions like how people, institutions, and nations make judgments and decisions; normative questions about rationality, such as what constitutes the best judgments and decisions; and prescriptive questions, such as how the process of decision making can be improved to make actual decisions closer to optimal ones. By virtue of its broad interdisciplinary nature, the study of decision making covers work found in a variety of more traditional disciplines including psychology, cognitive science, economics, philosophy, computer science, and neuroscience. The concentration is designed so that students develop a foundation in the science of human decision making, acquire expertise in at least two of the core areas of decision making (psychology, economics, computer science, and philosophy), and learn about applications of the science of decision making. In the process, students will learn how to apply quantitative and other research methods and will produce a piece of integrative research. For more info see here.

Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive Neuroscience (COGN) is the study of higher cognitive functions in humans and its underlying neural bases. By definition, it is an integrative area of study drawing principally from cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and linguistics. There are two broad directions which can be taken in this concentration—one is behavioral/experimental and the other is computational/modeling. In either case, the goal is to understand the nature of cognition from a neural perspective. See the detailed requirements for Cognitive Neuroscience.

Cognitive Science

Cognitive Science (COGS) uses scientific methods of experimentation, computational modeling, and brain imaging to study mental abilities such as perception, action, memory, cognition, speech, and language, as well as the development of those processes. Students must become knowledgeable in four areas of emphasis: perception, cognition, language, and cognitive neuroscience, as well as a set of methods relevant to Cognitive Science research. Students then create their own focus area of study, potentially integrating coursework from the Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences department with a diverse subset of fields including Anthropology, Applied Math, Education, Neuroscience, and Philosophy. See the detailed requirements for Cognitive Science.


Linguistics (LING) is designed to give students a background in the basic “core” areas concerned with the structure of language (phonetics, phonology, syntax, and semantics) and to allow students to concentrate more heavily in these areas of theoretical linguistics and/or to build on these areas to concentrate on areas such as child language acquisition, language processing, neurolinguistics (among others). Other areas such as historical linguistics or applications of linguistic theory to the study of the structure of various languages can also be pursued in conjunction with offerings in other departments. The electives include a number of courses in related departments, and the breadth of the field offers students flexibility in designing their concentration. See the detailed requirements for Linguistics.


Psychology (PSYC) encompasses a range of phenomena and levels of analysis in pursuit of three goals: to deepen our understanding of cognitive and neural mechanisms of sensation, perception, learning and emotion; to probe the biological and evolutionary foundations of animal behavior; and to clarify the social perception and assessment of individuals and groups. In contrast to the other concentrations in this department, the Psychology concentration places the greatest emphasis on understanding human and animal behavior at different levels of analysis – biological, neural, evolutionary, cognitive, developmental, and social.  Students choosing this concentration are often interested in clinical and mental health issues, and will be well prepared for careers in medicine, law, education, business administration, as well as both clinical and experimental psychology. See the detailed requirements for Psychology.

Additional Information