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Undergraduate Program

Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology (PNP) is an interdisciplinary program that provides an opportunity to examine the mind from a variety of perspectives. In addition to philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology, PNP draws from other disciplines whose investigations contribute to understanding the mind, including anthropology, biology, computer science, education, and linguistics. Each of the discipline employs different modes of inquiry to examine various aspects of the mind-brain.

  • Neuroscience seeks to illuminate the workings of the mind by investigating the brain mechanisms that subserve them;
  • Linguistics illuminates the mind by investigating one of its most complex products, language;
  • Anthropology promotes insight into the mind by looking at the natural history and cultural diversity of humanity.

The goal of the major is to provide students with an appreciation of differences among approaches used by these and other disciplines that study human physiology, nature, and behavior, and an understanding of how they can provide converging perspectives on issues in cognition and action.

If you choose to major in PNP, you will learn to bring cutting edge work in the sciences to bear on some of the oldest questions in philosophy. At the same time, your studies will enable you to recognize the emergence of exciting new questions and how those might be answered. Examples include: Is the the same thing as the brain – are they a single biological entity? Or do minds contribute something distinctively non-biological? What is the nature of intelligence? Can a computer network ever be genuinely intelligent? What assumptions are made by cognitive psychologists when they divide mental activity into separate processes and use response times or other measures of task performance to describe those processes? What assumptions are made by neuroscientists when they use imaging techniques to determine where in the brain a cognitive process processes is carried out? What are we to make of Chomsky's claim that language is an innate 'mental organ' with a capacity to generate an infinite number of sentences? As a PNP major you will seek answers to questions such as these in courses offered by PNP and its affiliated departments.

Program Options

Majoring in PNP

Students can choose between two tracks in the PNP major. Students interested in the biological underpinnings of the mind can select the Cognitive Neuroscience (CN) track, which integrates the study of higher brain functioning with behavioral research directed at understanding activities such as perceiving, attending, remembering, and acting. The Language, Cognition and Culture (LCC) track addresses the significance of language for human cognition, and the integration of cognition with the broader cultural environment. The final stage in the PNP major is a 'depth requirement' that involves consolidating the knowledge and skills gained in your chosen track.

Learn More About the Major Requirements

Second Major in PNP

A PNP second major might be of particular interest to students with a first major in one of the allied disciplines. However, PNP can be combined with any first major: recent PNP graduates have had first majors in Biology, Psychology, Drawing and Printmaking, Computer Science and Engineering, Economics, and French. Requirements for a PNP second major are the same as the requirements for a primary major in PNP, except that a Capstone sequence, though encouraged, is not required for second major.

Learn More About Second Major Requirements

Minoring in PNP

If you don't have time for the full major, you can also choose to minor in PNP. Minors must complete 15 units, of which 9 must be at the 300-level or above.

Learn More About Minoring in PNP

Research Opportunities

Research is an important part of the PNP major, as a capstone is required, but even for our non-majors, PNP offers numerous opportunities for undergraduate research. If you are just starting to think about a research project, a good first step is to visit the Office of Undergraduate Research. You can also discuss possible research venues with faculty working in the area in which you might be working.

Mind, Brain, and Behavior

Many PNP students also participate in Mind, Brain, and Behavior, a two-semester sequence open to a limited number of incoming first year students program. After completing a year-long course integrating material from psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, students can enroll in FYP 300 and conduct a large research project in their sophomore year.

Independent Study

Students can count 3 credits of independent study in a PNP-affiliated discipline towards their PNP requirements. Many students choose this option, and they generally find that their research and their PNP coursework illuminate each other. 

Learn More About Independent Study in PNP

Honors

Students with a sufficiently high GPA are eligible top participate in the PNP Honors Program (PNP 499) in their senior year. Honors students conduct research for and write a thesis under the supervision of two PNP faculty members, at least one of whom is normally  a Core PNP faculty member. The aim of the program is to enable students to look at one aspect of the mind--their chosen topic--both empirically and philosophically. You might, for instance, examine aspects of perception by investigating visual attention in a psychology lab while studying the philosophy of perception. (While it would be most natural to choose a PNP-affiliated faculty member as the non-core mentor for an honors project, non-PNP-affiliated faculty can also serve.)

Learn More About Honors in PNP

Study Abroad

Students interested in one semester study abroad options are urged to consider going abroad during the Fall semester of their junior year. Because most students elect to pursue studies abroad during the spring term, fall semester study abroad affords significant advantages over the spring semester, including better housing and course offerings.

Learn More About Study Abroad

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