Cognitive science and UI Theory

Part of the reason I enjoyed computer science so much was the challenge of taking human logic and translating that to computer logic. As a human, we can look at a list of integers and holistically find a number in the list, that is, we can see most of the list at once. For a computer, this is not possible, and so we need to find a new way for the computer to accomplish this task. Typically, when I find myself completing classic computer science problems, I often learn more about the brain and how we think through these problems. Cognitive science is the study of the mind and how we can apply it to many fields, and in many ways, it is similar to computer science.

Since cognitive science is so varied, I had a hard time figuring out what exactly it’s used for. It’s a relatively new field, and a lot of its practice seems to come down to psychology. At first, I was somewhat disappointed, because psychology was not really my cup of tea, but soon I realized there was so much more to discover. Cognitive science, it seems, is closely related to AI and deep learning. Understanding how the brain learns and thinks and applying that to a computer is a similar challenge to the one I described in the previous paragraph and one I am very interested in. The idea that we can create humans from machines is a decidedly dramatized and sci-fi-esque idea, but one not too far from happening, thanks to AI and cognitive science. Papers like Human Emotion Recognition Using an EEG Cloud Computing Platform are really exciting and an interesting read, because it shows the potential of these fields.

But it’s not just AI. Cognitive science isn’t just about creating a new human or mind, it’s also about enhancing the one that we already have. By learning about how the brain works, UX and UI designers can create interfaces that are tailored towards the way the mind thinks. Learning about how the brain responds to different shapes and colors, and contrast helps subtly persuade the user into doing what the creator would want. Companies like Target and Walmart implement this strategy via color themes to encourage the user to either display strength and dependability(blue) or passion and excitement(red). Beyond just fancy new technologies, cognitive science has cemented itself as a key player in marketing and UI as well.

It took me a while to put a definition on what cognitive science is, and I still don’t have an evident grasp on the subject, but to me, that is the beauty of it. It is such an abstract field that has its applications in so many other places that personally, I don’t necessarily think it can be categorized as a subject. I think cognitive science is a way of thinking, to apply what we already know about the brain, and to use it to do so many cool things, as I have highlighted in paragraphs above. As someone so new and inexperienced in this field, I am excited to start this new chapter, and i’ll be documenting my progress here along the way.

A high school student interested in cognitive science and programming

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