Cognitive Informatics

From Clinfowiki
Revision as of 00:43, 10 October 2019 by Rulea (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

Cognitive informatics is the application of cognitive science to the study of informatics. In addition to the field of cognitive science, cognitive informatics is informed by the related fields of human-computer interaction and human factors which each study of human cognition and how humans interact with information systems, though with slightly different focuses. Applied to biomedicine, cognitive informatics is a framework for understanding how humans interact with health information technology (HIT) and a set of methods for designing this technology to be more usable.

History of Cognitive Science

The field of cognitive science, in which cognitive informatics is rooted, is itself an interdisciplinary discipline, mixing elements of psychology, neuroscience, and computer science to study the mind and its processes. Cognitive science emerged as a discipline in the 1950's and 60's as a critique to behaviorist views of psychology which cast behavior as relationships between stimulus and response without considering internal processing. This renewed focus on cognition later became known as the cognitive revolution.

Initial research focused on the role of cognition in language understanding and production as well as the development of artificial intelligence systems to match or exceed human performance in a range of cognitive tasks. The Cognitive Science Society was founded at the University of California San Diego in 1979 and the university was a catalyst for early research in cognitive science, founding the first academic department of cognitive science in 1986.

Later work continued the psychological tradition of studying cognitive processes such as memory, attention, and perception. Other areas of research which have received significant attention include the mental representation of concepts, neural systems that give rise to cognitive functions, and the neural basis of consciousness. Computational modeling of cognitive processes led to the development of artificial neural networks which form the basis of many machine learning, and deep learning methods of artificial intelligence.

Models of Cognition

Human Information Processor

The earliest and most influential systematic models of cognition cast people as "human information processors". That is, not unlike a computer, human interactions with information could be understood as a series of inputs and processes which produced output. This led to models of cognition such as Card et al's Model Human Processor which postulated a set of resources (e.g., working memory, long term memory), processors, and actions which could be systematically mapped and timed so that the amount of time it took a human to perform a particular action (e.g., decide which of two numbers was greater) could be precisely timed. Norman's seven-stage model of human action similarly casts cognition as a systematic process of forming goals and intentions, and then selecting actions to achieve those goals. This model led to the description of gulfs of execution (e.g., which action to perform) and evaluation (e.g., did my action achieve the desired intention and goal) which explain challenges with using information systems

External Cognition

Later models considered how information processing might be externalized rather than exclusively performed in the mind. For example, which a graduate student at UC San Diego, Jiajie Zhang demonstrated how varying which rules of the Tower of Hanoi problem were internally and externally represented could lead to faster and more accurate solving of the problem. Kirsh et al also demonstrated how expert players of the game Tetris used tools in the game to rotate pieces to save the processing needed to mentally rotate the piece and determine if it would fit in a desired slot.

Distributed Cognition

Building on these earlier models of cognition, anthropologist Ed Hutchins developed the framework of distributed cognition that holds that not only can cognition occur outside the confines of an individual mind, but that is and be distributed across tools, cultures, and time through the development and use of tools that perform certain cognitive tasks. For example, the development of different map projections enable naval navigators to use straight edges to compute their location.

Methods of Study

Researchers have developed numerous methods over the years to study cognitive processes related to the use of information


To be filled in

Cognitive Walk-through

To be filled in

Think Aloud

To be filled in

Cognitive Ethnography

To be filled in

Computational Ethnography

To be filled in


  • Patel VL, Kannampallil TG, Kaufman DR, editors. Cognitive Informatics for Biomedicine: Human Computer Interaction in Healthcare. Springer; 2015 Aug 10.
  • Card SK. The psychology of human-computer interaction. Crc Press; 2018 May 4.
  • Zhang J, Norman DA. Representations in distributed cognitive tasks. Cognitive science. 1994 Jan;18(1):87-122.
  • Hutchins E. Cognition in the Wild. MIT press; 1995.
  • Card SK, Moran TP, Newell A. The keystroke-level model for user performance time with interactive systems. Communications of the ACM. 1980 Jul 1;23(7):396-410.
  • John BE, Kieras DE. The GOMS family of user interface analysis techniques: Comparison and contrast. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI). 1996 Dec 1;3(4):320-51.
  • Hutchins E. Cognitive ethnography. InProceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society 2003 (Vol. 25, No. 25).
  • Zheng K, Hanauer DA, Weibel N, Agha Z. Computational Ethnography: Automated and Unobtrusive Means for Collecting Data In Situ for Human–Computer Interaction Evaluation Studies. InCognitive Informatics for Biomedicine 2015 (pp. 111-140). Springer, Cham.