Gray & Altmann (2001)

Gray, W. D., & Altmann, E. M. (2001). Cognitive modeling and human-computer interaction. In W. Karwowski (Ed.), International encyclopedia of ergonomics and human factors (Vol 1, pp. 387-391). New York: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.

Cognitive Modeling and Human-Computer Interaction

"There is nothing so useful as a good theory " (Lewin, 1951).

"Nothing drives basic science better than a good applied problem" (Newell & Card, 1985).

1 Introduction

The quotations from Lewin and from Newell and Card capture what motivates those who apply cognitive modeling to human-computer interaction (HCI). Cognitive modeling springs from cognitive science. It is both a research tool for theory building and an engineering tool for applying theory. To the extent that the theories are sound and powerful, cognitive modeling can aid HCI in the design and evaluation of interface alternatives. To the extent that the problems posed by HCI are difficult to model or cannot be modeled, HCI has served to pinpoint gaps or inconsistencies in cognitive theory. In common with design, science is an iterative process. The symbiotic relationship between modeling and HCI furthers the scientific enterprise of cognitive science and the engineering enterprise of human factors.

Cognitive modeling is a form of task analysis and, as such, is congenial to many areas and aspects of human factors. However, the control provided by the computer environment, in which most dimensions of behavior can be easily and accurately measured, has made HCI the modeler's primary target. As modeling techniques become more powerful and as computers become more ubiquitous, cognitive modeling will spread into other areas of human factors.

We begin this article by discussing three cognitive models of HCI tasks, focusing on what the models tell us about the tasks rather than on the details of the models themselves. We next examine how these models, as well as cognitive models in general, integrate constraints from the cognitive system, from the artifact that the operator uses to do the task, and from the task itself. We then explore what sets cognitive modeling apart from other types of cognitive task analysis and examine dimensions on which cognitive models differ. We conclude with a brief summary.

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