Lecturer's Précis - Norman (1990)

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First published online 13:08 GMT 4th March 2002, Copyright Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). This version [2.0 - copyright] 09:00 BST 8th July 2018.


Norman's (1990) "Conventional View" Cognitive Hierarchy

Donald A. Norman of Northwestern University complained in 1990 that cognitive models conveyed too shallow and "conventional" a view of biological information processing. Specifically, they failed to go beyond the symbol processing and address cognition in its "proper perspective". Humans, Norman argued, were more than just rather large mechanisms; they have personality and exist within a culture, interacting with each other as social animals. He went on to discuss what cognitive theorists ought to do about this, but before he did so he summarised previous models as follows:

Norman (1990): Here is a relatively detailed four-level A-shaped cognitive hierarchy, with more than usual attention given to the nature of higher cognitive processing. Note the many factors capable of affecting thought processes. These include attentional selection (light pink), and the influence of emotions and goal states (dark pink). Note also the range of memory resources recognised (green panel, central). We attach particular importance to Norman's notion of "activated concepts" here, because we regard these as the main route by which short term memory phenomena emerge from long term memory storage.

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Redrawn from a black and white original in Norman (1990:311, Figure 14.1). This version Copyright © 2002, Derek J. Smith.




Norman, D.A. (1990). Twelve issues for cognitive science. In Aitkenhead, A.M. & Slack, J.M. (Eds.), Issues in Cognitive Modeling. Hove: Erlbaum.