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A narrative or story that describes the activities of one or more persons, including information about goals, expectations, actions, and reactions.

schedule chart

The graphic depiction of a PERT or CPM chart.

secondary notation

In the cognitive-dimensions framework, extra information in means other than formal syntax. Examples include layout in programs and circuit diagrams and penciled annotations on music. See the text for more details.

selection rules

The “S” in GOMS, selection rules are the rules people use to choose between multiple methods that accomplish the same goal. They typically depend on characteristics of the task or user’s personal preferences or knowledge.

set theory

One of the foundations of nearly all mathematics and formalism in computing is the manipulation of sets (unordered collections of things) and functions.

situated action

One can plan to descend a set of rapids in a canoe, and one can plan and replan as one goes along, but one cannot (successfully) plan the descent and then merely execute the actions. Suchman, in her 1986 book “Plans and situated actions”, analyzed action as necessarily improvisational. Actions are undertaken in response to the constantly changing physical and social environment. An important consequence of this is to make plans and planning a resource for action, and not simply as the determinant of action.

situation model

A mental model derived from a text that represents what the text is about.

skilled behavior

Movement through a problem space by applying a known operator at every state, from a known start state to a known end state. (see problem solving for a contrasting type of behavior).

skills-rules-knowledge framework

A taxonomy of three qualitatively distinct levels of cognitive control. An expert human operator may exhibit any or all levels of cognitive control, depending upon the situation. This is not to be confused with models that describe stages of acquiring expertise or skill.


an error that occurs during action planning or execution when an appropriate system goal was selected


A computational cognitive architecture developed by Allen Newel, John Laird, and Paul Rosenbloom in the early 1980s. It was used as the exemplar in Newell’s 1990 book Unified Theories of Cognition. It has undergone continual development from its inception in many universities and has also been commercialized for complex modeling in military simulations and intelligent agents for video games. Soar was one of the architectures reviewed in Pew & Mavor (1998). More information about this series of architectures can be found in Newell (1990).

social-organizational analysis

A way of analyzing work that focuses on how work is organized and shared across people and supporting tools. It is an analytic phase of cognitive work analysis.

socially distributed cognition

This is the theoretical position that goal-directed group activity can be understood in computational terms.

socio-organizational Church-Turing hypothesis

The recognition that organizations perform, among other things an information-processing role, and the supposition that this means we are likely to see similar structural elements and processes in the physical and social aspects of the organizations as we do in electronic computers. See:http://www.hcibook.com/alan/topics/ecology/


The investigation of social structure, social relationships, and individual social action.

software logging

instrumentation of a system such that it automatically records and time-stamps user actions and system reactions

spreading activation

This is a computational process that determines activation values over a set of interassociated cognitive structures. The spread of activation from one cognitive structure to another is determined by weighting values on associations among chunks. Activation values indicate degree of relevance to ongoing cognitive processes.


any individual or organization with an interest in the process or product of an analysis or design project


In computing, this usually refers to the inner memory of a computer at a particular point of time, but more generally it is that in the present that encapsulates all that of the past that can effect things in the future.

state transition network (STN)

A representation of dynamic systems including states (usually as labeled circles or boxes) and arcs labeled by actions that form transitions between the states.

status-event analysis

A collection of informal and formal analysis techniques that focus on the differences and relationships among discrete event phenomena (e.g., a key press, a project deadline) and more continuous status phenomena (e.g., the current mouse position, the weather, the current screen display) See:http://www.hcibook.com/alan/topics/status/


See state transition network.


a graphical event-by-event enactment of all or part of a scenario, developed to communicate or analyze a user interface design; the enactment may be at a high level (e.g., major screen changes) or at a detailed level (e.g., mouse selections), depending on the usability issue being explored

strategies analysis

A way of analyzing work that focuses on different ways that a particular control task might be carried out. An analytic phase of cognitive work analysis.


A goal that must be accomplished in service of a higher-level goal. Goals are often expressed as a hierarchy of goals and several levels of subgoals. The lowest level of subgoals are accomplished through operators, which are decomposed no further.

symbolic interactionism

Originated in the social psychology of George Herbert Mead and the sociological methodology of Herbert Blumer, this places emphasis on the individual in explanations of the transactions of people and society.

syndetic modeling framework

A framework that looks at the interactions among different kinds of models—in particular, models of system behavior and models of human activity. See Barnard, May, Duke, and Duce (2000).

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