What is Cognition?

Human Cognition: Mechanisms involved in such processes in human beings as perception, attention, learning, memory, thought, concept formation, reading, problem solving, and the development of such behaviour in children. [ref: http://www.aldea.com/guides/ag/hcxtxt.html]


  • A very broad term. Not easy to define.

  • Internal mental processes - “Thinking”

  • Norman (1993) two types: experiential (routine) reflective (conscious effort).

  • Cognitive psychology.

Study of cognition: topics

  • Attention

  • Perception and recognition

  • Memory

  • Learning

  • Language

  • Problem solving, planning, reasoning.



  • A general term referring to the selective aspects of perception so that at any instant an organism focuses on certain features of the environment to the relative exclusion of other features. E.g., Cherry (1953). “The cocktail party phenomenon”.

  • Allowing us to “focus” on certain things.

  • Evolutionary advantages.

  • Attention is linked to goals. We attend to things that are important to us.

  • It is selective but sometimes our attention is “caught”.

  • Attention is very often divided.

  • Physical and semantic differences between messages or images important.


Attention and design

  • Making important information salient allowing our attention to be grabbed. Using different colours, font sizes, animations etc.

  • Balancing the underuse and overuse of attention grabbing devices.

  • A well structured interface or web page can help maintain interest and attention. A page full of text can be boring and attention can be lost.


What you need to Accomplish

Gain an understanding of the user in terms of cognition and the areas which the term covers i.e. attention, memory etc. Begin to look inside the user and not at the mere physical form.

Related Links

Situated Cognition and learning Environments: Roles, Structures, and Implications for design

Instructional Design Models

Now Learn More

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