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The Cognitive Science of Ignorance
Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status
Course Description

This course provides an integrative Cognitive Science perspective of the nature of ignorance, connecting long-standing debates in epistemology and recent empirical work in psychology to understand what it means to be ignorant, when people are and are not aware of their own ignorance, and why ignorance is sometimes valuable information unto itself. The course is intended for graduate students in Philosophy and Cognitive Science, as well as advanced undergraduate students. Materials will include both modern and ancient philosophical perspectives on knowledge, learning, and the distribution of knowledge across individuals; and recent empirical work that uses data to examine what people think they know, what they actually know, and what they know they can learn.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to

• Discuss existing perspectives on ignorance from Philosophy and Psychology

• Evaluate the role of ignorance in teaching, learning, and everyday life

• Identify and create new research questions about ignorance


Readings listed under each class should be completed before class. Each article will be summarized by one student each week (except for Week 1, I’ll present those). The presentation does not need to involve slides. Exact number of presentations per student over the semester will depend on class size. Presentations are evaluated pass/fail, and completing all your assigned presentations accounts for 40% of your final grade.

Final project: An empirical research proposal OR a theory paper exploring an open question about ignorance. The empirical research proposal should be an APA style introduction and methods section with a discussion of the interpretation of potential patterns of results. The theory paper should have a review of both the empirical and theoretical literature related to the focal question and a theoretical proposal. Topic proposal: 20% of final grade. Final version: 40% of final grade.

Course Level
Academic Year
US Credits
ECTS Credits
Course Code