Cognitive Psychology and Computer Applications

Keyboard / PsychologyCognitive psychology is an important aspect of human computer interaction and is a key component that needs to be considered when optimising applications for their use by end users.

Firstly, cognitive psychology is essentially the way that people, and therefore your users, think and learn things.  Cognitive psychology plays a part in computer applications development when how your users think and learn is then accommodated within the design and implementation of your application.

There are certain processes that occur for your users to learn and acquire knowledge, and subsequently recall and use that learned knowledge to use your application.

A number of factors have to be considered including:

  • Perception
  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Learning
  • Thinking
  • Social influences
  • Environmental influences

Perception – how does your user perceive the application and the tasks that it is supposed to perform.

Attention – how can you draw and channel the users attention so that they can effectively use your application.

Memory – the human memory has to be considered when designing applications.  Short term memory has a small capacity (around 7 items) so it is important not to overwhelm the user with too much information.  The program must be logical, easy to use and include a help system.  If a user initially gets frustrated with using your application, then they may well seek an alternative rather than trying to master your application.  Make it easy for your end user – especially at the beginning.  Only provide necessary and relevant information to the task.  Don’t overfill your screens.  Use sections and divide your program up into tasks and subtasks.

Learning – consider how the human mind learns processes, gains knowledge and subsequently recalls and uses this knowledge.

Thinking – consider how your end user thinks and how they will believe that certain tasks should be carried out.  Integrate this thinking into your application as much as possible.

Social influences – are there any social influences that affect your application or its target user audience?  If so, don’t forget to consider these when designing and implementing your application.

Environmental influences – equally, are there any environmental influences that will affect the way the user uses your application or the target users?  If so, then again consider these when designing and implementing your application.

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