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cognitive artifact

A manmade or modified tool to support mental activity. Examples include number systems, slide rules, navigational charts, and even language itself. While generally applied to a single individual, within the framework of DCog, a cognitive artifact is also a tool that supports the coordination of information processing between entities within a functional system.

cognitive complexity theory (CCT)

A computational cognitive architecture introduced by Kieras and Polson in the 1980s and used as the basis for NGOMSL. It was realized in a production system. More information can be found in Bovair, Kieras, & Polson, 1988, 1990; Kieras & Polson, 1985.

cognitive dimension

A characteristic of the way information is structured and represented—one that is shared by many notations and interaction languages of different types and, by its interaction with the human cognitive architecture, that has a strong influence on how people use the notation and determines what cognitive strategies can be pursued. Any pair of dimensions can be manipulated independently of each other, although typically a third dimension must be allowed to change (pairwise independence). (More exactly, a cognitive dimension is not solely a characteristic of the notation, but a joint characteristic of the notation and the environment in which the notation is used, whether based on paper and pencil or computer or even based on voice and sound.) Examples such as viscosity, premature commitment, and others are defined in the text. Note that in the cognitive-dimensions framework, dimensions are not evaluative per se, but only in relation to a particular type of activity; for example, viscosity is a problem for modification activities but not for transcription activities. See also cognitive-dimensions framework.

cognitive-dimensions framework

This states the pertinent values of cognitive dimensions that are required to support a given type of activity, and thereby provides a means to evaluate an information artifact.

cognitive engineering

A multidisciplinary area of research concerned with the analysis, modeling, design, and evaluation of complex sociotechnical systems. It is sometimes also called cognitive systems engineering.

cognitive ethnography

A qualitative method of data collection used by DCog researchers based around observation. It is “cognitive” because it focuses on computational information transformations within a functional system.

cognitive science

The scientific project dedicated to understanding the processes and representations underlying intelligent action.

cognitive work analysis

An approach to analyzing human work that focuses on how effective courses of action are constrained by both ecological and cognitive considerations.


Maintains a Cartesian dualism, attributing human conduct to the operation of mental predicates. Often associated with a computational theory of mind, it is a predominate paradigm within human-computer interaction (HCI).

common ground

Some piece of knowledge is common ground if all the people conversing know it and they all know that the others know it, too. (See the text for a more formal and comprehensive definition.)

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