Cognitive Science studies higher mental functions, such as perception, memory, reasoning, language, emotions, action, social skills, etc. It explores the way they develop in infants or young children, how they are influenced by cultural diversity, the changes they undergo in certain neurological, psychiatric or developmental pathologies, their counterparts or precursors in animals. The broad aim of Cognitive Science is to link the formal description of these abilities as they arise in individuals or groups of individuals, to their underlying psychological mechanisms, and to the biological structure that make them possible (genes, molecular mechanisms, brain circuits and areas).

Cognitive Science draws it experimental tools from several life sciences: experimental psychology, ethology, physiology, neurobiology, brain imagery, and derive many concepts and theories from human and social sciences: philosophy, linguistics, anthropology. Central to Cognitive Science is the notion that mental functions are based on information processing. This allows to deploy theoretical resources from physics, mathematics and computer science, in order to develop explicit implementable theories of these mental functions.

Research in Cognitive Science started to bloom in the 60s and is now solidly established in a large number of industrialized countries, as it is perceived both as a promising integrative scientific field and a source of potential industrial applications. These countries have developed resources to meet the specificity of this new field (institutes, research centres, graduate schools). In France, the Ministry of Research and several research institutes (CNRS, INSERM, CEA) are actively involved in programmes in Cognitive Science.