Human Cognition

by Anastassia Elias / from beautifuldecay.com

Each process has its own limitations, and the designers must to take care of it, relieving the user of tasks that over-burden them, simplifying tasks and providing a better user experience.

Each cognition process are related to strengths and weaknesses of a user as we can see bellow:

Interaction Design Foundation

The design challenge: As a designer you should allocate tasks to the user and computer according to which does them best. Relieve users of the tasks they find difficult or even impossible and allocate them to the computer.

Tasks that involve creativity, subjectivity or learning must be allocated to the user. The human mind might be an amazing thing, capable of storing an unlimited amount of information, but it has clear limitations, such as a rapidly decaying working memory, inconsistent access to long-term memory and slow processing. – Interaction Design Foudation

An user probably will prefer an alternative product instead of yours if it provides a better cognitive support. So, understand each one and take care of limitations is important for your product acceptance.

Attention

Attention is the mental process of select or ignore sensory information from our environment.

Unless we have undertaken significant amounts of practice performing two tasks simultaneously, it is very rare that we can achieve equal levels of performance in both tasks compared to when they are carried out individually. This is especially so when performing two tasks using the same sense (i.e. two visual tasks, two auditory tasks and so on). – Interaction Design Foundation

So, avoid to force your user to do two tasks at the same time, especially tasks that use the same sense.

Bottom-up x top-down perceptual processing

A top-down process is like trying trying to find Waldo in “Where’s Waldo?”. You start with an internal “high-level” goal, which determines where you look next. You are looking “for” something, so higher-level brain areas “prime” the low level visual areas to detect that pattern. – Paul King on Quora

Top-down processing is thought to be controlled by the central executive (a memory system in which prior experience and knowledge influences our interpretation of and interactions with the environment) in working memory, which is a concept established by Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch in 1968 that built on the previous notion of short-term memory as a simple store for retaining information for a very limited period of time. – Interaction Design Foundation

A bottom-up process occurs when something unexpected is moving in the corner of your eye and catches your attention. This causes you to look over and react. The signal causing this chain of events originated in the environment. – Paul King on Quora

Bottom-up processing involves the automatic allocation of attention when one of our senses is stimulated by the properties of an object in our environment. – Interaction Design Foundation

Designer must to take care of bottom-up perceptual processing because it can allocate the user attention in a important moment (during an important task) for something not so important and,  as the user can’t achieve equal levels of performance in two tasks simultaneously, he will lose efficiency.

Memory

Memory is the mental process responsible for the encoding, storage and retrieval of information received.

Once information is received by one or more of our sensory organs it is retained in one of the modality-specific sensory stores (i.e. visual sense store for visual information, auditory sense store for auditory information and so on).

Short-term Memory

Human attention is limited and we are only capable of maintaining around five items in our short-term memory at one time. – Interaction Design Foundation

Don’t force the short-term memory of the users. Always help them to remember/recognize things through cues that help them reach into the vast memory. Avoid the overload of this kind of memory.

If attention is allocated to a particular element of the sensory steam then it is maintained for a maximum of 18 seconds (Brown and Peterson, 1958) in short-term memory. Short-term memory has a limited capacity generally found to range between 5 and 9 distinct items (Miller’s magical number 7 + or – 2) – Interaction Design Foundation

With practice we are able to retain larger numbers of items in short-term memory, through a process of chunking; which involves the mental grouping of items into meaningful clusters. – Interaction Design Foundation

Designers must to take care with the number of items that the systems is forcing the user to memorize. It’s possible throught the use of standards on the template, icons and navigation and avoiding the infobesity. Even if the number of items is smaller than 9, the system must to provide cues to facilitate the user to remember.

Language

Language is the mental process that involves learning, understanding and producing meanings. The responsibility of the designer is to use the most appropriate (familiar) language for their intended users and that fits for each given domain ((therminology).

The designer communicates with the user indirectly, without the opportunity to hear or see the specific queries, problems or needs they have. Therefore, the designer requires knowledge of who their users will be, what they might want and need in the design and any potential problems that might occur beforehand, so they can anticipate what must be included in the device or system design. – Interaction Design Foundation

Reasoning

Reasoning may be defined as the set of mental processes used to derive inferences or conclusions from premises. Reasoning is not logic. Logic is more like a component of reasoning, because it refers to the application of rules, norms and heuristics (rules-of-thumb) during reasoning. Reasoning can include steps that do not conform to logic, such as choosing incorrect actions on purpose to test something.

A reasoning can be deductive or inductive:

In a deductive system we are able to reason with a high degree of certainty, on the basis of the premises of an argument, until we reach conclusion. In contrast to deductive inferences, inductive reasoning does not guarantee that the correct conclusion will be made; as such inferences are based on prior experiences and propositions rather than concrete rules, facts or algorithms. – Interaction Desgin Foundation

Problem-Solving

The mental processes involved in the development of ideas, strategies and behaviours that help us achieve our aims and objectives. There are many lists of characteristics that define a problem-solving, and between all of them we can quote three characteristics:

  1. Goal directedness – Behaviour is generated on the basis of a current goal.
  2. Sub-goal decomposition – Not always a goal can be reach directly. Some goals are complex and involves a deconstruction of the overall goal into the necessary component behaviours, in other words, a desconstruction of the goal in sub-goals and to reach the goal we must to reach sub-goals.
  3. Operator selection – Each sub-goal is composed by various actions and select these actions and the sequence to reach a sub-goal is an characteristics of a problem-solving. each sub-goal involves the selection of an appropriate action that fits into the overall sequence.

With practice we no longer have to deconstruct the goal into its sub-goals and actions, instead we can unconsciously select the appropriate actions required to complete the overall goal. Practice reinforces the appropriateness of these actions and the sequence we must perform them in. – Interaction Design Foundation

Practice is important to the development of automatic problem-solving behaviour, designers must attempt to limit the amount of practice required before users reach this point of automaticity. One way of simplifying the problem-solving process is to make sure the tools required are as visible as possible.

Decision making

The problem-solving involves the generation of possible problem-solving behaviours, decision making involves the selection of the best available option from the problem-solving process.

It was originally assumed that decision making is a rational process, which is based on the selection of the best option according to objective thinking. However, this has since been replaced by the notion of subjective decision-making, which is based on emotional, dispositional, social and situational factors. – Interaction Design Foundation

Commonly, the selection of a solution that happens in a decision making involves a comparison of risks and the option with less risks is chosen. The users have fear of compromise anything on the system, so, it is important to minimise the costs associated with users’ actions, so they cannot cause damage and they feel able to move freely through the system or interact with a device confident.

Conclusion

Six mental processes

  • Attention is the mental process of select or ignore sensory information from our environment.
  • Memory is the mental process responsible for the encoding, storage and retrieval of information received.
  • Language is the mental process that involves learning, understanding and producing meanings.
  • Reasoning may be defined as the set of mental processes used to derive inferences or conclusions from premises.
  • Problem-solving is the mental processes involved in the development of ideas.
  • Decision making involves the selection of the best available option from the problem-solving process.

Important to know

  • An user probably will prefer an alternative product instead of yours if it provides a better cognitive support.
  • The designer requires knowledge of who their users will be, what they might want and need in the design and any potential problems that might occur.
  • The designer must to avoid to force your user to do two tasks at the same time, especially tasks that use the same sense
  • Designers must to take care with the number of items that the systems is forcing the user to memorize.
  • Always help the user to remember/recognize.
  • The designer communicates with the user indirectly, without the opportunity to hear or see the specific queries, problems or needs they have.
  • Designers must attempt to limit the amount of practice required before users reach this point of automaticity.
  • It is important to minimise the costs associated with users’ actions to they feel able to interact without fear.

Reference

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