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See cognitive complexity theory.


a structured collection of information that acts as a single unit with respect to storage and information processing capacity

claims analysis

An analytic evaluation method involving the identification of scenario features that have significant positive and negative usability consequences.

claims feature

An element of a situation or an interactive system that has positive or negative consequences for people in this or similar situations.


The original version of GOMS created by Card, Moran, and Newell (1980a). The “CMN” was added before “GOMS” when other versions of GOMS began to appear (e.g., CPM-GOMS and NGOMSL), to differentiate the specific representation used by Card, Moran, and Newell from the concepts in GOMS.

cognitive architecture

The fixed structure that realizes a cognitive system. It typically decribes the memories and processors in a cognitive system and how information flows between them. This is in contrast to the knowledge laid on top of an architecture to allow it to perform a task in a particular domain.

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 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 walkthrough

an expert critique of a user interface that involves simulating the use of a system and analyzing possible problems in goal selection, planning, or action execution

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.

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.


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).

command language

a structured set of expressions that a computer interprets as requests for information and services

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.)

complexity theory

The study of how much time or resources are required to compute things. The complexity of an algorithm or problem is typically measured relative to the size of the problem, n, and expressed in order notation. For example, a time complexity of O(n2) means that the time it takes to perform the calculation increases with the square of the problem size.

computational equivalence

Two representations that, in addition to being informationally equivilent, make the same information equally readily accessible. See also informational equivalence.

computational metaphor (of cognition)

Hutchins (1995a, 117) defines a “computation” as referring to “the propagation of representational state across representational media.” The computational metaphor is the position taken that cognition is a form of computation, and that mental state is encoded analogously to computer representations. The term “metaphor.” Within cognitive science, the computational metaphor is also known as the “representational theory of mind,” in which computations are actions on representations. DCog claims that the computational metaphor can be applied to a unit of analysis broader than an individual’s mind (i.e., the functional system).




computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW)

The design of systems to support interaction and cooperative working. It emerged in the late 1980s as a result of dissatisfactions with the predominantly cognitivist paradigm employed in human-computer interaction (HCI) and in recognition of the importance of questions regarding organizations, work, and interaction for the design of computer systems.

conceptual framework

A structure describing the concepts in a cognitive system, less specific than a cognitive architecture.


In the context of cognitive work analysis, factors that limit, but do not prescribe, how effective work activity might be carried out.

control task analysis

A way of analyzing work that focuses on the control that must be exercised over a work domain and the tasks implied to exercise such control. An analytic phase of cognitive work analysis.

controlled cognitive processes

Processes that require monitoring and effort or attention during their execution. See also automatic cognitive processes.

conversation analysis

Originated by Harvey Sacks, this is often coupled with ethnomethodology and is the study of the way in which conversationalists order and accomplish their exchange of speech with each other as a situated and locally organized matter.

conversational agents

software agents that are interact with the user using natural language and that are often given a human-like appearance

cost structure of information

An analysis of the resource and opportunity costs involved in accessing and handling information from a physical or virtual information system.


A version of GOMS developed by John in the 1980s that explicitly joined GOMS to the model human processor. It included perceptual and motor operators as well as cognitive operators. Perceptual, cognitive, and motor operators could run in parallel, subject to resource and information dependencies. More information can be found in Gray, John, & Atwood, 1993; John 1988, 1990; John & Gray, 1992, 1994, 1995.

critical path

The path through subtasks (operators) in a PERT chart that determines the length of the total task. Used in CPM-GOMS.


See computer-supported cooperative work.

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