Levels of Cognitive Fit
Cognitive design is an emerging discipline that seeks to improve the fit between how we think and feel and the things we make. In general terms, users enter one of five mental states when interacting with artifact (anything that is designed) including:
1. Agitate: Users experience cognitive dissonance (tension resulting from having conflicting thoughts) or negative emotional state (irritation, frustration, anger, disappointment) when they interact with the artifact.
2. Tolerate: Cognitive states generated by the artifact are within limits and do not cause any material change in the user.
3. Resonate: Things “go click” and the user relates deeply to the artifact as it activates mental models, past memories, archetypes, gestalts or other forms of deep mental patterns that cause a positive or productive association.
4. Accelerate: Using the artifact improves the performance of perception, memory, learning, language acquisition, decision making, emotional management or some other mental process.
5. Integrate: The artifact mediates or causes the cognition (e.g. moving a cursor using a brain computer interface or having an aesthetic experience when viewing a work of art). Without the artifact the cognition does not happen.
Each of the five states represents a level of fit (in an ergonomic sense) between the artifact and the cognition of the user. Assessing and improving this type of fit is what cognitive design is all about.