Cognitive engineering

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Not to be confused with Cognitive ergonomics.

Cognitive engineering was an engineering method used in the 1970s at Bell Labs,[citation needed] focused on how people form a cognitive model of a system based upon common metaphors. As explained by Joseph Henry Condon:[1]

The idea is that people form a model. You present them with some instruments, tools, like a faucet, electric stove or something like that and demonstrate how it works. They then form in their heads a model that shows how it works inside to help them remember how to use it in the future. It may be a totally erroneous model of what is going on inside the black box.

According to Condon, the ideas of cognitive engineering were developed later than, and independent from, the early work on the Unix operating system.[1]

Don Norman cited principles of cognitive engineering in his 1981 article, "The truth about Unix: The user interface is horrid." Norman criticized the user interface of Unix as being "a disaster for the casual user."[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Joseph H. Condon". Princeton University History of Science. 
  2. ^ Norman, Don (1981). "The truth about Unix: The user interface is horrid" (PDF). Datamation (27(12)).