High Level Models of Human Behaviour

There are very few theories in HCI, and most tend to deal with low level phenomena such as selection accuracy and speed (Fitts Law), or ways of modeling human goals into low-level actions and predicting performance outcomes (GOMS). As an alternative, I provide students with two high-level cognitive models of human behaviour that help them understand how people interact with machines. These are Shneiderman's syntactic / semantic model, and Norman's stages of interaction.


Topics covered

Additional Readings

  1. Theory-based design (excerpt of Chapter 2), p.87-88, gives a brief overview of Norman's model.
  2. Beyond GOMS (excerpt of Chapter 9), p.579-580, gives a brief overview of several cognitive models. It also includes a figure of the stages in Norman's model.
  3. The growth of cognitive modeling in HCI since GOMS, p. 603-625. describes the recent advances of cognitive modeling. It also shows how some theories (GOMS) fit within Norman's model.


  1. None

Major sources used to prepare lecture material

  1. The readings listed above
  2. Don Norman's The Design of Everyday Things, published by Basic Books, contains a full description of Norman's stages.
  3. Ben Shneiderman's Designing the User Interface, 3rd Edition, published by Addison Wesley, contains a full description of Shneiderman's syntactic/semantic model.