University of Maryland

TUTORIAL: Cognitive Science in HCI

Thursday, May 27, 2020
A tutorial presented during the Human-Computer Interaction Lab 37th Annual Symposium
University of Maryland


This tutorial will give you an understanding of research at the intersection of cognitive science and HCI. The central theme of the tutorial is designing interfaces with cognition in mind. You will learn how scientific experiments can serve a dual role, contributing both practical and theoretical results. In the top down approach we begin with a new design, then the results of experiments contribute new theory that explains the results in terms of human cognitive processes. You will also learn how theories of human cognition can serve as the starting point for designing interfaces from the ground up.


Tim Clausner is a is a cognitive scientist at the University of Maryland (UMIACS and HCIL)
Contact: clausner -at-

Abstract and Topics

Human computer interaction research aims to enhance information displays, improve how people interact with physical devices, and offer new ways of interacting with digital information. It’s all about meaning. The purpose of a display is for people to comprehend its meaning, for a visualization to make sense, for a manual gesture to yield an expected outcome. Achieving enhanced interfaces is a research problem situated in the intersection of computer science, psychology, linguistics, and physics (at least). This tutorial will explore the role of theory and experiment as they apply to problems of interface design, performance measurement, and interpretation of results. Carefully designed experiments can tell us more than whether one interface is better than another. Experiments can tell us about perceptual, cognitive, and neural processes which enable people to make sense of interfaces. We will consider two design approaches. Top down approaches begin with an extant design and aim to enhance it. Ground up approaches aim to design an interface from first principles. These approaches can yield practical improvements in interface design and performance, as well as yield contributions to theory.

Preview of Topics

Embodied Cognition
Visional Cognition
Gesture and Action
Design of Controlled Experiments
Semantics in Language
Meaning in Vision and Action
Information Visualization
Air Traffic Display
Tangible User Interfaces
Theory Grounded in Empirical Results
AI + CogSci + HCI