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Glossary » cognitive artifact

cognitive artifact

a physical object (or software application) used in the process of thinking, remembering, and problem-solving. Many types of drawings (on paper, whiteboards, and blackboards) can support thinking, and many software applications are specifically designed to help people solve problems (such as spreadsheets). We want to specifically differentiate those aspects which are used to help us think from those which are used to help format and produce artifacts.

Examples of cognitive artifacts include:

  • remembering with grocery lists and appointment book
  • writing and manipulating equations and arithmetic problems
  • using a word processor to help us organize our thoughts and construct arguments
  • using diagrams, such as graphs, schematics, and decision trees, to help us understand and reason with relationships

Many of these items are used collaboratively, where people are solving problems together, as conversational props.