SYMBSYS 100 / LING 144 / PSYCH 130 / PHIL 190
Introduction to Cognitive and Information Sciences
Spring 2008 (retrospective syllabus)
updated June 25, 2008

Lead Instructor Todd Davies, davies at stanford dot edu
Office: Margaret Jacks Hall 460-040C
Office Hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 10:30-11:55 am
Teaching Assistants
Inbal Arnon,
inbalar at stanford dot edu
Office Hours: Thursdays 1-2:30 pm in 460-122
Section 1: Tuesdays 5:15-6:05 pm in 160-326
Aurelie Beaumel,
abeaumel at stanford dot edu
Office Hours: Fridays 3:05-5:05 pm in 460-040A
Section 2: Fridays 2:15-3:05 pm in 160-323
Marie-Catherine de Marneffe
mcdm at stanford dot edu
Office Hours: Mondays 1:15-3:15 in 460-113
Section 3: Mondays 5:15-6:05 pm in 160-317
Time Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:45 - 4:05 pm
Location 380-380C
Description The history, foundations, and accomplishments of the cognitive and information sciences, including presentations by leading Stanford researchers in philosophy, computer science, linguistics, psychology, communication, and education. Overview of the issues addressed in the Symbolic Systems major.
Required Work Quizzes (30%) Each lecture beginning with the 2nd class day will begin with a 10 minute, closed-book/computer/notes quiz covering material from the reading required for that day as well as from the previous lecture. There are 17 quizzes during the quarter, and your top 15 scores will count toward your total quiz grade. No make-up quizzes will be scheduled.
Midquarter essay (25%) An in-class, open-book/computer/notes essay exam, covering modules I and II, on Tuesday, May 6.  If you must be absent on the day of the midterm, please contact Inbal at least one week before the midterm.
Final essay (40%) An open-book/computer/notes essay exam, covering all four modules, on Tuesday, June 10, 3:30-6:30 P.M.  If you must be absent on the day of the final, please contact Marie at least two weeks before the final.
Experimental participation (5%). See the handout about this for more info.
NOTE: For approved accommodation needs, contact Aurelie.
The following are required texts:
  • [MBC] Robert Cummins and Denise Dellarosa Cummins, editors (2000), Minds, Brains, and Computers: The Foundations of Cognitive Science, An Anthology, Blackwell Publishers
    • on reserve at the Tanner Philosophy Library
  • [EOL] Martin Davis (2001), Engines of Logic: Mathematicians and the Origin of the Computer, W.W. Norton and Company
    • on reserve at Green Library under the title The Universal Computer.
  • [GP] Ernest Nagel and James R. Newman (1958), edited and with a new forward by Douglas R. Hofstadter (2001), Gödel's Proof, NYU Press
    • on reserve at Green Library (1958 edition).
Additional readings will be made available via web links, on a password protected basis when necessary.  The reading level is heavy, and it is important not to fall behind. The quizzes should help to push you along.
Each student should sign up for one 50-minute section per week.  Sections will be led by the TAs, and are intended as assistance in understanding the readings and lectures in preparation for the midquarter and final essay exams.  Sign up for a section on Coursework ( no later than April 7.  Sections begin Tuesday, April 8.
Check out and post to the course wiki for interesting supplementary readings, audio, and video files.  The wiki is at
Discussion List
Post and read questions about the course on the course discussion list.  Archives and subscriber info are available at

Here are some links you may find useful:


Main Lecturer

Topic and Readings

4/1 TD

Intro and Overview  outline   slides


I. Can Computers Think?
4/3 TD

Mind, Body, and World  Quiz#1  outline   slides


Mind, Body and World (continued); Logic and Machines   Quiz#2   outline   slides   Section week 1 handout

4/10 Solomon Feferman

The Limits of Logic and Computation   Quiz#3   slides

  • GP
4/15 Nils Nilsson

Human-Level AI and the Turing Test    Quiz#4   slides   Section week 2 handout

II. Is Language Innate?
4/17 Krista Lawlor

Nativism and Empiricism   Quiz#5   outline-notes


4/22 Tom Wasow

Grammar and Learnability   Quiz#6   slides    Section week 3 handout

4/24 James McClelland

Language Acquisition: Computational Modeling   Quiz#7  lecture-handout

  • P. M. Churchland (1990), Cognitive Activity in Artificial Neural Networks, MBC, chapter 12 [pdf]
  • Rumelhart and McClelland (1986), On Learning the Past Tenses of English Verbs, MBC, chapter 14 [pdf]
  • Pinker and Prince (1989), Rules and Connections in Human Language, MBC, chapter 18 [pdf]
  • Elman (1990), Finding Structure in Time

Eve Clark

Language Acquisition: Experiments and Observations   Quiz#8   slides    Section week 4 handout

  • Wexler (1994), On the Argument from Poverty of the Stimulus [pdf]
  • Pullum and Scholz (2002), An Empirical Assessment of Poverty of the Stimulus Arguments [pdf]
  • Tomasello (2003), Usage-Based Linguistics, Constructing a Language, chapter 1 [pdf]
  • E. Clark (2003), Review of Constructing a Language [pdf]

III. Are People Generally Rational?

Probability and Decision Theory   Quiz#9  notes

Midquarter Essay
In-class, open book   info   study-questions   answer-guide
5/8 Brian Skyrms

Evolutionary Game Theory   Quiz#10  slides   Section 5 handout

  • Hargreaves Heap, Hollis, Lyons, Sugden, and Weale (1992), Game Theory, The Theory of Choice: A Critical Guide, chapter 7 [pdf]
  • Lewis (2002), Convention and Communication, Convention, chapter IV [pdf]

5/13 TD

Judgment and Decision Behavior   Quiz#11  slides-ppt  slides-pdf

5/15 Samuel McClure

Neuroscience and Decision Making   Quiz#12   slides   Section 6 handout

  • Kandel (2000), Principles of Neural Science, chapters 1 [pdf] and 2 [pdf]
  • Churchland and Sejnowski (1992), The Computational Brain: Anatomical and Physiological Techniques, MBC, chapter 23 [pdf]
  • Schultz (2007), Reward
IV. Is Information Technology Prosocial?
5/20 TD

People and Technology   Quiz#13   slides-ppt   slides-pdf

5/22 TD
Clifford Nass

People and Technology (continued); Media, Computers, and Psychology   Quiz#14   slides-Davies-ppt  slides-Davies-pdf slides-Nass   video-Nass   Section 7 handout

5/27 Roy Pea

Computers and Education   Quiz#15   slides

5/29 TD

Design and Democracy  Quiz#16  slides-ppt   slides-pdf

6/3 TD

Design and Democracy (continued); Conclusions   Quiz#17   slides-ppt   slides-pdf

Final Essay
3:30-6:30 P.M., open book/notes/laptop - no Internet or communication - in 380-380C    study-questions   exam