Demonstrating the cognitive plausibility of interactive system specifications

R Butterworth, Ann Blandford, D Duke
in Formal Aspects of Computing, Journal article


Much of the behaviour of an interactive system is determined by its user population. This paper describes how assumptions about the user can be brought into system models in order to reason about their behaviour. We describe a system model containing reasonable assumptions about the user as being 'cognitively plausible'. Before asserting the plausibility of a model however we must first be able to make the assumptions made in that model inspectable.
There is a tension between the inspectability of user assumptions and the tractability of models; inspectable models tend to not be very tractable and vice versa. We describe how we can get round this tension, by deriving tractable models from explicit user assumptions. The resulting models may not of themselves be very inspectable to human-factors workers, but the process by which they are derived is inspectable. Hence we claim that we can have both tractability and inspectability. We exemplify our claims using a simple cognitive model and 'Meeting Maker', an interactive electronic diary system.