Cognitive Science Major

The undergraduate degree program in cognitive science is a program offering a course of study leading to the bachelor of science (B.S.) degree. Fifteen courses (75 credits) are required. Because some courses have additional prerequisites, students should read the descriptions of courses carefully, noting the prerequisites for courses of interest to them.

Major Admission Requirements

Students may petition to declare the cognitive science major once they have completed the lower-division requirements. For students to be admitted to the major, they must have a 2.80 or higher cumulative grade-point average (GPA) in the lower-division requirements and receive a C or better in each of the courses. Transfer students may substitute equivalent courses from other institutions. Students not meeting the grade requirements in the lower-division courses may take any of the listed alternatives as substitutions; the department will use the highest grade to compute GPA.

Cognitive Science Major Requirements- 2019 Catalog

  • Incoming first-year students from 2019-on will use the 2019 Catalog.

Cognitive Science Major Requirements- 2014 Catalog

The Cognitive Science Major Worksheet and sample Academic Plan are available on the Advising Forms page.
Some major requirements may be satisfied through test scores or transfer credit. See the AP and Transfer Credit page for details.
Some major requirements may be satisifed by courses taken through UCSC Study Abroad. See the Study Abroad page for details.
Honors in the major are awarded to eligible graduating seniors. See the Honors in the Major page for details.
The 2020-21 UCSC Catalog can be found here.

 See the Letter Grade and Double-Counting Courses notes below.


Cognitive Science Major Requirements- 2019 Catalog

FIVE Required Courses for the Cognitive Science Major

Courses to complete BEFORE declaring the major:

  • Calculus: AMS 11A or MATH 11A, or 19A, or 20A; OR Tests: AP Calculus AB score of 4+, AP Calculus BC score of 3+, or CLEP Calculus score of 60+
  • Programming: CSE 13E, or 13S, or 20 (formerly CMPE 13/L or 5C or 5J or 5P or 12A)
  • Psychology 2: Introduction to Psychological Statistics (or STAT 5 or STAT 7/7L)
  • Psychology 20: Introduction to Cognition

Course to complete BEFORE taking upper division elective courses:

  • Psychology 100: Research Methods in Psychology (must be taken at UCSC)

SIX Upper-Division Psychology Courses

THREE Core Cognitive Science Courses (choose 3 from the following):

  • Perception (PSYC 120 or 121)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience (PSYC 123)
  • Psychology of Language (PSYC 125)
  • Learning and Memory (PSYC 129)

THREE Additional Upper-Division Cognitive Science Electives, chosen from this list:

  • Any of PSYC 120-139 (i.e., the "Cognitive Series"; PSYC 139 courses are senior seminars)
  • PSYC 104, Development in Infancy
  • PSYC 105, Children's Thinking
  • PSYC 112, Moral Development
  • PSYC 116, Communication Tech, Culture, and Human Development
  • PSYC 119E, World of Babies (senior seminar)
  • PSYC 119F, Language Development (senior seminar)
  • PSYC 119P, Children and Technology (senior seminar)
  • PSYC 140F, Mind, Society, and Culture
  • PSYC 181, Psychological Data Analysis
  • PSYC 194B, Advanced Cognitive Research
  • PSYC 195A, Senior Thesis
  • PSYC 204-252, graduate cognitive courses, by petition
NOTE: One of the three upper-division electives taken must be a senior seminar.

FOUR Interdisciplinary Elective Courses

Interdisciplinary Electives 

Students must complete four interdisciplinary electives from lists of courses pre-approved by the Psychology Department. The electives fall into four groups: Evolution; Artificial Intelligence and Human-Computer Interaction; Linguistics; Philosophy. Three of the four electives must be selected from the same group. Students are responsible for planning their course of study to complete any necessary prerequisites for electives they wish to take. 

Group 1: Evolution

Group 2: Artificial Intelligence and Human-Computer Interaction

Group 3: Linguistics

Group 4: Philosophy

Choose from an approved list.

NOTE: 8 upper division courses are required for the major. If you do not take 1 upper division interdisciplinary elective course, you will need to take an additional upper division Cognitive Psychology course (PSYC 120-138).


Cognitive Science Major Requirements- 2014 Catalog

Lower-Division Requirements:

PSYC 2, Introduction to Psychological Statistics (or AMS 5 or AMS 7/L) 

PSYC 20, Introduction to Cognitive Psychology

Calculus (one of AMS 11A, MATH 11A, 19A or 20A)

Computer Programming (one of CMPE 13/L, CMPS 5C, 5J, 5P, 12A)

Upper-Division Requirements:

PSYC 100, Research Methods in Psychology (7 credits)

Core Courses — students must complete three of the following:

PSYC 120 or 121, Perception

PSYC 123, Behavioral Neuroscience

PSYC 125, Psychology of Language

PSYC 129, Human Learning and Memory

Cognitive Psychology Electives - students must complete three additional upper-division Psychology courses from the following list. One of the core courses that is not used to satisfy the core courses requirement may be used to satisfy this requirement:

Any of PSYC 120-139 (i.e., the "Cognitive Series")

PSYC 104, Development in Infancy

PSYC 105, Children's Thinking

PSYC 119E, World of Babies

PSYC 119F, Language Development

PSYC 119P, Children and Technology

PSYC 181, Psychological Data Analysis

PSYC 194B, Advanced Cognitive Research

PSYC 195A, Senior Thesis

PSYC 204-252, graduate cognitive courses, by petition

Interdisciplinary Electives — students must complete four interdisciplinary electives from lists of courses pre-approved by the Psychology Department. The electives fall into four groups: Evolution; Artificial Intelligence and Human-Computer Interaction; Linguistics; Philosophy. Three of the four electives must be selected from the same group. Students are responsible for planning their course of study to complete any necessary prerequisites for electives they wish to take. Possible sequences of interdisciplinary courses, including prerequisites, are given below.

Group 1: Evolution

Group 2: Artificial Intelligence and Human-Computer Interaction

Group 3: Linguistics

Group 4: Philosophy

See the 2nd page of the Cognitive Science Major Worksheet for current list of approved interdisciplinary electives.

Senior Comprehensive Requirement

UCSC requires that every student satisfy a senior exit/comprehensive requirement prior to graduation. Cognitive Science students will satisfy this requirement by receiving a passing grade in either a cognitive seminar (PSYC 139A-G, PSYC 119E, F, P), or research experience (PSYC 194B, Advanced Cognitive Research, or PSYC 195, Senior Thesis).

Students who elect to use PSYC 194B or PSYC 195 to satisfy the senior comprehensive requirement, will still need to complete a senior seminar to satisfy the DC requirement

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LETTER GRADE NOTE: Courses graded C-, D or F may NOT be used to satisfy major/minor requirements. Also, please refer to the Major Admission Requirements. Courses indicated as required to complete BEFORE declaring the Cognitive Science major must be taken for a letter grade, and a minimum 2.8 GPA in the declaration courses is required (use a GPA calculator to determine eligibility to declare). All other courses required for the major could be taken Pass/No Pass (review the full policy for other restrictions for the P/NP option here).

DOUBLE-COUNTING COURSES NOTE: A major must have a minimum of 40 upper division credits, and a minor must have a minimum of 25 upper division credits. There is no limit to the number of lower-division credits (courses numbered 1-99) that can be shared between majors and minors. The Cognitive Science major has the minimum number of upper division courses, so double-counting one or more courses depends on the number of upper division units required for a student's other major(s) or minor(s). For example, students may double-count their upper division Interdisciplinary Elective course if they confirm with their other major or minor advisor they will be completing at least 45 upper division units (for that major) or 30 upper division units (for that minor). Students interested in double-majoring in Cognitive Science and General Psychology must double-count PSYC 100 and the senior seminar, which requires adding 2 additional upper division Psychology course electives to the academic plan to ensure both majors have the minimum number of upper division units (a sample academic plan is available on the Advising Forms page).