12 Forbes Terrace
Pittsburgh, PA 15217












Saturday, February 21, 2004

Rich Carlson
Richard Carlson, professor of psychology at Penn State, and author of Experience Cognition, was our guest for Seminar this week, talking about environmental support for intentions.

Intentions are the mental representations that specify a goal or a desired outcome that are active at a particular moment in time. It is a short period of time: mental states typically last 1/10th of a second or as long as 2-3 seconds only. They typically change several times a second.

The structure of an intention is as follows:

Agent intends to achieve outcome by acting on objects (when conditions are met)

Intentions select affordances. Affordances being (in a traditional cognitive psych definition as set out by James Gibson) aspects of the physical or mental environment that support action.

Intentions are also fragile. Human beings have a very limited cognitive capacity. We forget things very rapidly and have a very limited amount of data we can store in short-term memory, a la George Miller's Magic Number Seven. Thomas Metzinger calls this the Window of Presence. We can only focus on one item at a time, measured in tenths of a second, and there is evidence we can only keep one goal at a time in mind. Switching between tasks both takes time and is error-prone.

Intentions have to be active in order to control behavior. Active meaning a sort of conscious awareness. The more "active" something is, the more powerful it is.Working memory is the systems or strategies we have to keep information active.

Importantly for interaction designers (since we create environments that support actions), intentions are also environmentally supported. Humans use the environment to organize and act upon our intentions. Environments remind us of what we want to do. For example, a place setting at a dinner table reminds us we want to eat. There are explicit memory aids and support for goals such as signage and instructions. Even when we could do a task with working memory (like remembering a small string of letters), we prefer to rely on the environment for the information.

We also talked about some cognitive failures, what Don Norman calls action slips. There are a couple different types of slips: errors of formation (when you mistake something for something else, like by putting orange juice on your cereal instead of milk); faulty activation/loss of activation (when you forget what it was you were doing); and faulty triggering (when you fail to distinguish between having an intention and acting on it).

posted at 08:46 AM in cognition, special guest stars | comments (0) | trackback (1)


‹‹ preceding entries




3D (2)
alumni (3)
assistantships (3)
big ideas (23)
classes (16)
classmates (17)
cmu (12)
cognition (1)
cpid program (3)
design 101 (25)
design theory (20)
extracurricular (11)
faculty (8)
field trips (5)
hci program (4)
info design (3)
interface design (6)
meta (6)
money (5)
papers (4)
photography (5)
preparation (6)
projects (43)
readings (29)
software (8)
special guest stars (10)
student life (16)
teaching (1)
techniques (12)
thesis paper (4)
thesis project (1)
typography (7)
visualization (8)


Week of Mar 14, 2004
Week of Feb 29, 2004
Week of Feb 22, 2004
Week of Feb 15, 2004
Week of Feb 8, 2004
Week of Feb 1, 2004
Week of Jan 25, 2004
Week of Jan 18, 2004
Week of Jan 11, 2004
Week of Jan 4, 2004
Week of Dec 7, 2003
Week of Nov 30, 2003
Week of Nov 23, 2003
Week of Nov 16, 2003
Week of Nov 9, 2003
Week of Nov 2, 2003
Week of Oct 26, 2003
Week of Oct 19, 2003
Week of Oct 12, 2003
Week of Oct 5, 2003
Week of Sep 28, 2003
Week of Sep 21, 2003
Week of Sep 14, 2003
Week of Sep 7, 2003
Week of Aug 31, 2003
Week of Aug 24, 2003
Week of Aug 17, 2003
Week of Aug 3, 2003
Week of Jul 27, 2003
Week of Jul 20, 2003
Week of Jul 13, 2003
Week of Jul 6, 2003
Week of Jun 29, 2003
Week of Jun 22, 2003
Week of Jun 8, 2003
Week of Jun 1, 2003
Week of May 25, 2003
Week of May 18, 2003
Week of May 11, 2003


Full Entries


Want more spam? Sign up to receive this blog via email:


All straight lines circle sometime. - The Weakerthans