Cognitive Engineering: Toward a
Workable Concept of Mind
It seems plain to me now that the “cognitive revolution” … was a response to the technologi-
cal demands of the Post-Industrial Revolution. You cannot properly conceive of managing a
complex world of information without a workable concept of mind.
—Bruner (1983, p. 63)
Perhaps no one has understood the depth to which the ever-increasing technological nature of the human ecology has shaped psychological theory better than Jerome Bruner. In his memoir In Search of Mind (1983), Bruner shared his reflections on the origins of the cognitive revolution. Although a great many factors may have played a role (e.g., Chomsky, 1959; Miller, 1956; Newell & Simon, 1972), Bruner turns much conventional thinking on its head, implying that scientists had to invent a theory of mind in response to the practical demands of finding coherent ways of understanding and coordinating a largely invented world of people engaged with post–Industrial Revolution technologies. The seeds of this scientific revolution, it seems, were not so much “in the air” as in the digital circuitry and in the need to understand and manage “a complex world of information.”
The purpose of this book is to take additional steps toward building what Bruner referred to as a “workable concept of mind.” Special emphasis is given here to the word workable. The central goal is to provide methods and models that can be fruitfully applied to solving practically relevant problems in human–technology interaction. These problems include designing and evaluating technological interfaces, decision aids, alerting systems, and training technology, as well as supporting human–automation interaction and human–computer interaction. In short, the aim of this book is to provide practical resources for addressing the menagerie of problems making up cognitive engineering (Hollnagel & Woods, 1983; Kirlik & Bisantz, 1999; Norman, 1986; Rasmussen, 1986). Along the way, many contributors to this volume also present insights and approaches that may shed light on fundamental problems in the science of adaptive cognition and behavior. This may be especially true when it comes to the challenge of understanding and formally articulating the role of the environment in cognitive theory.
Six themes unite the contributors' orientation toward developing a concept of mind that is both workable and valuable from a cognitive engineering perspective. These themes are illustrated in the selection of research problems, methods, and analysis and modeling techniques presented in the following chapters.