User Psychology: Re-assessing the Boundaries of a Discipline
Pertti Saariluoma, Antti Oulasvirta
DOI: 10.4236/psych.2010.15041   PDF    HTML     7,013 Downloads   14,680 Views   Citations


Currently, efforts of psychologists to improve interactive technology have fragmented and the systemization of scientific knowledge stalled. There is no home for integrative psychological research on computer use. In this programmatic paper, we reassess three meta-scientific issues defining this discipline. As the first step, we pro- pose to extend the subject of study from the analysis of human mind in the interaction to the broader view of human as an intentional user of interactive technology. Hence, the discipline is most aptly called user psychology. Secondly, problem-solving epistemology is advocated as an alternative to the notion from natural sciences that progress in science involves increased truth likeness of theories. We hold that implications to design is only one outcome of psychological work—user psychologists should help solving the problems of other stakeholders of technology as well. Thirdly, to help integrating fragments of research, analyses should be re-organized around explanatory frameworks that can span multiple technical application areas. An explanatory framework combines a problem domain, relevant knowledge, and the logic of scientific inference. To conclude, we argue that technology has become so pervasive an aspect of modern life that its relationship with human mind deserves the status of a basic research question and its own discipline. Psychology of the computer user should not be the handmaiden of technologists but de- fine itself by its own terms.

Share and Cite:

Saariluoma, P. & Oulasvirta, A. (2010). User Psychology: Re-assessing the Boundaries of a Discipline. Psychology, 1, 317-328. doi: 10.4236/psych.2010.15041.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Aaker, J. (1997). Dimensions of brand personality. Journal of Marketing Research, 34, 347-356.
[2] Anderson, J. (2002). ACT: A simple theory of complex cognition. Cambridge: MIT Press.
[3] Annett, J. & Duncan, K. (1967). Task analysis and training design. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 41, 211-221.
[4] Anderson, J., Farrell, R., & Sauers, R. (1984). Learning to program in LISP. Cognitive Science, 8, 87-129.
[5] Backstrom, L., Huttenlocher, D., Kleinberg, J., & Lan, X. (2006). Group formation in large social networks: membership, growth, and evolution. In Proceedings of the 12th ACM SIGKDD international conference on knowledge discovery and data mining (pp. 44-54). New York: ACM Press.
[6] Baddeley, A. (1986). Working memory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
[7] Bannon, L. (1991). From human factors to human actors: The role of psychology and human-computer interaction studies in system design. In J.M. Greenbaum & M. Kyng (Eds.), Design at work: cooperative design of computer systems (pp. 25-44). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
[8] Bannon, L. & B?dker, S. (1991). Beyond the interface: Encountering artifacts in use. In Carroll, J. (Ed.), Designing interaction: psychology at the human-computer interface. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[9] Beck, A. (1976). Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. Wisconsin: International Universities Press.
[10] Beenen, G., Ling, K., Wang, X., Chang, K., Frankowski, D., Resnick, P., & Kraut, R. (2004). Using social psychology to motivate contri-butions to online communities. In Proceedings of the 2004 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (pp. 212-221). New York, NY: ACM Press.
[11] Bernstein, R. (1971). Praxis and action:contemporary philosophies of human activity. Pennsylvania, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
[12] Blomberg, J., Burrell, M., & Guest, G. (2002). An ethnographic approach to design. In The human computer interaction handbook: fundamental, evolving technologies and emerging applications (pp. 964-986). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
[13] B?dker, S. (1989). A human activity approach to user interfaces. Human-Computer Inte-raction, 4, 171-195.
[14] Bourges-Waldegg, P. & Scrivener, S. (1998). Meaning, the central issue in cross-cultural HCI design. Interacting with Computers, 9, 287-309.
[15] Broadbent, D. (1958). Perception and communication. London, UK: Pergamon Press.
[16] Card, S. (2003). Information visualization. In The human-computer interaction handbook: fundamentals, evolving technologies and emerging applications (pp. 544-582). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
[17] Card, S., Moran, T., & Newell, A. (1983). The psy-chology of human- computer interaction. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
[18] Carroll, J. (1991). Introduction: The Kittle House Manifesto. In J. Carroll (Ed.), Designing interaction: psychology at the human-computer interface. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
[19] Carroll, J. (1997). Human-computer interaction: Psychology as a science of design. Annual Review of Psychology, 48, 61-83.
[20] Carroll, J. (2000). Making use: scenario-based design of humancomputer interactions. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[21] Chase, W. & Simon, H. (1973). Perception in chess. Cognitive Psychology, 4, 55-81.
[22] CHI Conference (2009). Guide to a Successful HCI Archive Submission. URL (last checked 15 May 2009) http://www.chi thors/Guides/ArchiveGuide.html
[23] Choi, B., Lee, I., Kim, J., & Jeon, Y. (2005). A qualitative cross-na- tional study of cultural influences on mobile data service design. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 661-670). New York, NY: ACM Press.
[24] Clemmensen, T. (2006). Whatever happened to the psychology of hu- man-computer interaction? Information Technology & People, 19, 121-151.
[25] Cockton, G. (2008). Designing worth-connecting preferred means to desired ends. Interactions, 15, 54-57.
[26] Cole, M. (1991). On cultural psychology. American anthropologist, 93, 435-439.
[27] Coren, S., Ward, L., & Enns, J. (1999). Sensation and perception 5th ed. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.
[28] Cowan, N. (2001). The magical number 4 in short-term memory: A reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 87-114.
[29] Czaja, S., Charness, N., Fisk, A., Hertzog, C., Nair, S., Rogers, W., & Sharit, J. (2006). Factors predicting the use of technology: Findings from the center for research and education on aging and technology enhancement (CREATE). Psychology and Aging, 21, 333.
[30] Dennett, D. (1991). Consciousness explained. London, UK: The Penguin Press.
[31] Diaper, D. & Stanton, N. (2004). The handbook of task analysis for hu-man-computer interaction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
[32] Dourish, P. (2001). Where the action is: the foundations of embodied interaction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[33] Dreyfus, H. (1992). What computers still can’t do: a critique of artificial rreason. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[34] Ekman, P. (2003). Emotions revealed. New York, NY: Times Books.
[35] Ericsson, K. & Simon, H. (1993). Protocol analysis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[36] Fitts, P. (1954). The information capacity of the human motor system in controlling the amplitude of movement. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 47, 381-391.
[37] Forlines, C., Shen, C., Wigdor, D., & Balakrishnan, R. (2006). Exploring the effects of group size and display configuration on visual search. In Proceedings of the 2006 20th anniversary conference on Computer supported cooperative work (pp. 11-20). New York, NY: ACM Press.
[38] Friedlander, N., Schlueter, K., & Mantei, M. (1998). Bullseye! when Fitts’ law doesn’t fit. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 256-264). New York, NY: ACM Press.
[39] Frieze, C., Hazzan, O., Blum, L., & Dias, M. (2006). Culture and environment as determinants of women's participation in computing: revealing the women-CS fit. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 38, 22-26.
[40] Gadamer, H. (1960). Wahrheit und methode. Mohr.
[41] Goldstone, R. (1998). Perceptual learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 585-612.
[42] Gray, W. (Ed.) (2007). Integrated models of cognitive systems (cognitive models and acrhitectures). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Pre- ss.
[43] de Groot, A. (1965). Thought and choice in chess. The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton.
[44] de Groot, A. (1966). Perception and memory versus thought: Some old ideas and recent findings. In B. Kleinmuntz (Ed.), Problem solving: research, methods, and theory. Wiley.
[45] Grossmann, R. (1984). Phenomenology and existentialism: an introduction. Routledge & Kegan Paul Books.
[46] Grudin, J. (1990). The computer reaches out: the historical continuity of interface design. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems: Empowering people (pp. 261-268). New York, NY: ACM Press.
[47] Grudin, J. (1994). Computer-supported cooperative work: History and focus. Computer, 27, 19-26.
[48] Hawthorn, D. (2000). Possible implications of aging for interface designers. Interacting with Computers, 12, 507-528.
[49] Heath, C. & Luff, P. (2000). Technology in action. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
[50] Heidegger, M. (1927/1962). Being and time. London, UK: SCM Press.
[51] Helander, M. (1997). Forty years of idea: some reflections on the evolution of ergonomics. Ergonomics, 40 (10), 952-961.
[52] Helander, M., Landauer, T., & Prabhu, P. (1997). Handbook of human- computer interaction. New York, NY: Elsevier Science Inc.
[53] Hofstede, G. (1984). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values. London, UK: Sage.
[54] Hogan, R., Harkness, A., & Lubinski, D. (2000). Personality and individual differences. In K. Pawlik & M.R.Rosenzweig (Eds.) Interna-tional handbook of psychology (pp. 283-304). London, UK: Sage.
[55] Horvitz, E. (1999). Principles of mixed-initiative user interfaces. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems: the CHI is the limit (pp. 159-166). New York, NY: ACM Press.
[56] Husserl, E. (1913/1982). Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy—first book: general intro-duction to pure phenomenology. Trans. F. Kersten. The Hague, Netherlands: Nijhoff.
[57] Ishii, H. & Ullmer, B. (1997). Tangible bits: towards seamless interfaces between people, bits and atoms. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 234-241). New York: ACM Press.
[58] Isler, R., Kirk, P., Bradford, S., & Parker, R. (1997). Testing the relative conspicuity of safety garments for new zealand forestry workers. Applied Ergonomics, 28, 323-329.
[59] John, B.E., Prevas, K., Salvucci, D.D., & Koedinger, K. (2004). Predictive human performance modeling made easy. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems(pp. 455-462). New York, NY: ACM Press.
[60] Jordan, P. (1998). Human factors for pleasure in product use. Applied Ergonomics, 29, 25-33.
[61] Kaptelinin, V. (1996). Activity Theory: Implications for Human Computer Interaction In B. Nardi (Ed.), Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 103-116). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[62] Kirwan, B. & Ainsworth, L. (1992). A guide to task analysis. UK: Taylor & Francis.
[63] Kuutti, K. (1996). Activity theory as a potential framework for human-computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (Ed.), Context and consciousness: activity theory and human-computer interaction (pp. 17-44). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[64] Kuutti, K. & Kaptelinin, V. (1997). Rethinking cognitive tools: From augmentation to mediation. In Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Cognitive Technology: Humanizing the Information Age, Japan, pp.31-32.
[65] Laird, J., Newell, A., & Rosenbloom, P. (1987). SOAR: An architecture for general intelligence. Artificial intelligence, 33, 1-64.
[66] Landauer, T.K. (1987). Relations between cognitive psychology and computer system design. In J. Carroll (Ed.), Interfacing thought: cognitive aspects of hu-man-computer interaction (pp. 1-25). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[67] Laudan, L. (1977). Progress and its problems. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
[68] Leontyev, A. (1981). Problems of the development of the mind. Moscow, Russia: Progress.
[69] Lindzey, G. & Borgatta, E. (1954). Sociometric measurement. In Hand- book of social psychology (pp. 405-448). Addison-Wesley Publishers Co.
[70] Mahner, M. (2001). Scientific realism: Selected essays of mario bunge. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
[71] Malone, T.W. & Crowston, K. (1994). The interdisciplinary study of coordination. ACM Computing Surveys, 26, 87-119.
[72] Martin, J. (1973). Design of man-machine dialogues. Prentice-Hall.
[73] Matsumoto, D. (1996). Culture and psychology. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
[74] McCarthy, J. & Wright, P. (2004). Technology as experience. interactions, 11, 42-43.
[75] McCrae, R. & Costa Jr., P. (1997). Personality trait structure as a human universal. American Psychologist, 52, 509-516.
[76] McKeithen, K., Reitman, J., Rueter, H., & Hirtle, S. (1981). Knowledge organization and skill differences in computer programmers. Cognitive Psychology, 13, 307-325.
[77] Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
[78] Meyer, D. & Kieras, D. (1997). A computational theory of executive cognitive processes and multiple-task performance: Part 1. basic mechanisms. Psychological Review, 104, 3-65.
[79] Miller, G. (1951). Language and Communication. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
[80] Moran, T. P. (1981). Guest editor's introduction: An applied psychology of the user. ACM Computing Surveys, 13, 1-11.
[81] Nardi, B. (1996) (Ed.). Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[82] Newell, A. & Card, S. (1986). Straightening out softening up: Response to Carroll and Campbell. Human-Computer Interaction, 2, 251- 267.
[83] Newell, A. & Simon, H. (1972). Human problem solving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
[84] Nielsen, J. (1993). Usability Engineering. Morgan Kaufmann.
[85] Norman, D. (2004). Emotional design: why we love (or hate) everyday things. New York: Basic Books.
[86] Norman, D. & Draper, S. (1986) (Eds.). User centered system design; new perspectives on human-computer interaction. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
[87] Norman, D. A. (1987). Some observations on mental models. In W.A.S. Buxton & R.M. Baecker (Eds.), Human-computer interaction: a multidisciplinary approach (pp. 241-244). San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc.
[88] Olson, G. & Olson, J. (2003). Human-computer interaction: Psychological aspects of the human use of computing. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 491-516.
[89] Pahl, G. & Beitz, W. (1996). Engineering design: a systematic approach. London: Springer.
[90] Parasuraman, R. & Rizzo, M. (2006). Neuroergonomics: The Brain at Work. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
[91] Pashler, H. (1998). The Psychology of attention. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[92] Picard, R.W. (1997). Affective computing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[93] Power, M. & Dalgleish, T. (2007). Cognition and emotion: from order to disorder. New York: Psychology Press.
[94] Rauterberg M. (2006). From personal to cultural computing: how to assess a cultural experience. In G. Kempter & P. von Hellberg (Eds.), uDayIV--information nutzbar machen (pp. 13-21). Lengerich: Pabst Science Publisher.
[95] Rosson, M.B. & Carroll, J. (2002). Usability engineering: scenario- based development of human-computer interaction. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc.
[96] Roth, W. & Lee, Y. (2007). Vygotsky’s neglegted legacy: Cultural- historical activity theory. Review of Educational Research, 77, 186.
[97] Saariluoma, P. (1997). Foundational analysis: presuppositions in experimental psychology. New York: Routledge.
[98] Saariluoma, P. (2005). Explanatory frameworks for interaction design. In. A. Pirhonen, P. Saariluoma, H Isomaki, & C. Roast (Eds.) Future interaction design (pp. 67-83). London: Springer.
[99] Sackman, H. (1970). Man-Computer Problem Solving. Princeton, NJ: Auerbach.
[100] Schraagen, J. & Chipman, S. (2000). Cognitive Task Analysis. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
[101] Searle, J. (1983). Intentionality, an essay in the philosophy of mind. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
[102] Sellen, A., Rogers, Y., Harper, R., & Rodden, T. (2009). Reflecting human values in the digital age. Communications of the ACM, 52, 58-66.
[103] Shackel, B. (1959). Ergonomics for a computer. Design, 120, 36-39.
[104] Shneiderman, B. (1976). Exploratory experiments in programmer behavior. International Journal of Parallel Programming, 5, 123- 143.
[105] Simon, H. (1969). The sciences of the artificial. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
[106] Styles, E. (1997). The psychology of attention. New York: Psychology Press.
[107] Suchman, L. (1987). Plans and situated actions: the problem of human-machine communication. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
[108] Svanaes, D. (2001). Context-aware technology: a phenomenological perspective. Human-Computer Interaction, 16, 379-400.
[109] The Joint Accident Investigation Commission of Estonia, F. and Sweden (1997). Final report on the capsizing on 28 September 1994 in the baltic sea of the RO-RO passenger vessel MV Estonia. Technical report, The Joint Accident Investigation Commission.
[110] Ulrich, K. & Eppinger, S. (2003). Product design and development. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
[111] Vertegaal, R. (2003). Attentive user inter-faces: Introduction. Communications of the ACM, 46, 30-33.
[112] Von Wright, G. (1972). On so-called practical inference. Acta Sociologica, 15, 39-53.
[113] Vygotsky, L. (1980). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
[114] Weinberg, G. (1971). The psychology of computer programming. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
[115] Weiser, M. (1991). The computer for the twenty-first century. Scientific American, 265,94-104.
[116] Welford, A. (1968). Fundamentals of skill. Methuen.
[117] Wickens, C., Lee, J., Liu, Y., & Gordon-Becker, S. (2003). Introduction to human factors engineering. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice- Hall, Inc.
[118] Wiggins, J. (1996). The five-factor model of personality: Theoretical perspectives. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
[119] Winograd, T. & Flores, F. (1986). Understanding computers and cognition. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corp.
[120] Wittgenstein, L. (1958). The blue and brown books. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.