Taxonomy for cognitive work analysis

Jens Rasmussen, Annelise Mark Pejtersen, K. Schmidt

Research output: Book/ReportReportResearch

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The taxonomy is a conceptual framework for analysis of cognitive activities as they actually unfold in a complex work situation. It has emerged through years of studies in process plants, electronic maintenance workshops, libraries, hospitals, and manufacturing companies. The present approach to a taxonomy is shaped by intention to create a tool that can serve the design of advanced information systems by making it possible to match system properties to the users’ actual, cognitive activities, resources, and preferences and to predict the kind of changes to be expected in the behavior of individuals and organizations in response to new information systems. The taxonomy is, however, also intended to serve needs of research in general in complex work environments. In particular, it is intended to be a vehicle for generalization of results of field studies in various domains so as to make it possible to transfer results among domains. Accordingly, the taxonomy is shaped as a multi-facet description system along the dimensions of 1) The work domain representation; 2) Activity analysis in domain terms; 3) Activity analysis in decision making terms; 4) Information processing strategies; 5) Actual work organization, the dynamic division and distribution of activities and their coordination; 6) Social organization and management styles and, finally, 7) Cognitive control of activities, the mental resources and preferences of the actors. The report gives a description of the concepts used for analysis along these dimensions and, in addition, presents some examples for its application for comparison of field analysis and laboratory experiments. The paper is a working paper and will be revised and up-dated from the experience gained from further field studies and system design projects.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationRoskilde, Denmark
PublisherRisø National Laboratory
Number of pages153
ISBN (Print)87-550-1647-2
Publication statusPublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Risø-M-2871


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