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Grant, S. (1994). Modeling complex cognition: Contextual modularity and transitions. In: Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on User Modeling, pp 157--162, Hyannis, MA, USA. The MITRE Corporation.


Simon Grant
Centre for HCI Design
City University
Northampton Square
London EC1V 0HB
(now independent)


Effective design of interfaces for, e.g., operators engaged in process control tasks, or other complex tasks, requires some kind of model of their cognition. Models of cognition require some kind of modularity in order to be psychologically plausible. This paper outlines two main approaches to providing modularity: functional; and contextual. A few examples of cognitive theories are assessed in these terms. The main thesis proposed here is that for a model to be effective at predicting human behaviour in complex tasks, it must combine clearly defined modules and the mechanisms necessary for switching between them. An approach to this is suggested, where there are two different kinds of transition between contextual modules: learned, context-specific transitions, and general, associative, transitions. Some kind of integrated theory of this kind is vital, on grounds of cognitive plausibility, for major progress in the modeling of complex cognition, and could also give a computational model that was able to scale up to realistic size. Practical implications for user modeling and interface design are discussed.



Analysis of previous themes in contextual modularity

Putting together nature and interrelationship of modules

Two mechanisms for transition between contextual modules



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