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 biology, linguistics, education, computer science, and cultural anthropology. Each of the disciplines 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;
- Linguistics illuminates the mind by investigating one of its most complex products, language;
- Anthropology promotes insight into the mind's workings by looking at the workings of society.
The goal of the major is to provide students with an appreciation of differences among approaches used by these disciplines 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 mind-brain a single biological entity, or do minds contribute something distinctively non-biological? 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's affiliated departments.
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. Majors are required (and second majors strongly encouraged) to undertake a capstone experience as part of the depth requirement. The capstone is designed to allow students to engage in an independent project or study that draws together different strands of the major or affords a concentrated, in-depth study of a particular area.
Mind, Brain, and Behavior
Prospective students interested in the topics covered by the PNP Program are encouraged to consider the popular Mind, Brain, and Behavior (MBB) Program, which is open to first-year students entering any of the University's undergraduate schools. Application for admission to MBB is made through the College of Arts & Sciences first year programs. First year MBB students take two core courses that provide an introduction to the interdisciplinary study of the mind-brain. These courses are taught collaboratively by faculty members from different disciplines. In the sophomore year, interested students can undertake research under the supervision of one or more participating faculty members. Research options combining independent work with opportunities to work collaboratively faculty and other students.
MBB can serve as an entry sequence for the PNP major, but is also compatible with any major or pre-professional program. Please note that far more students apply for entry to MBB than there are positions available. Prospective PNP majors not in MBB can choose from a variety of 100-level courses that serve as PNP prerequisites. Please see Majoring in PNP for details.