Managing Contextual Cognition Leaks through Observational Research

We cannot separate ourselves from our environment, what people call experience can also be classified as Mental Models, in terms of interaction design theories, this means the perceptions we develop when we play or learn a technology, the learning process, the perceptions and our attitudes all constitute our Mental Models.  I will give you an example, my first smartphone was not an iPhone but MDA Pro [a nice phone which used to open up like a tablet, had a nice sleek stylus to tap elements on the touchscreen and had a cool qwerty keyboard which I was proud of…], when the iPhone came along, I simply rejected it saying “they are saying we can use our fingers, oh well how can a finger select a tiny bit on screen which is only possible through a stylus”.  I had a significant mental block to even hear about this new technology because my mental model was that a smartphone got to have a stylus or how else could you possibly work on it?

The mental models are influenced at a subconscious level via context, contextual enquiries via observational research can highlight significant cognition leaks which if managed effectively can help save lots of productive time. In a research done recently, we were able to identify at least 15 different factors which were causing cognition leaks for the user when trying to accomplish a task. This identification of cognition leaks was a result of the observational research and documenting this multi-dimensional information for analysis and identifying the sources of these various cognition leaks. We ended up proposing a new product prototype which was a promising new product to our client, this product is currently in the beta-testing phase.