Cognition matters: Enduring questions in cognitive is research

Michael Davern*, Teresa Shaft, Dov Te'eni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explore the history of cognitive research in information systems (IS) across three major research streams in which cognitive processes are of paramount importance: developing software, decision support, and human-computer interaction. Through our historical analysis, we identify "enduring questions" in each area. The enduring questions motivated long-standing areas of inquiry within a particular research stream. These questions, while perhaps unapparent to the authors cited, become evident when one adopts an historical perspective. While research in all three areas was influenced by changes in technologies, research techniques, and the contexts of use, these enduring questions remain fundamental to our understanding of how to develop, reason with, and interact with IS. In synthesizing common themes across the three streams, we draw out four cognitive qualities of information technology: interactivity, fit, cooperativity, and affordances. Together these cognitive qualities reflect IT's ability to influence cognitive processes and ultimately task performance. Extrapolating from our historical analysis and looking at the operation of these cognitive qualities in concert, we envisage a bright future for cognitive research in IS: a future in which the study of cognition in IS extends beyond the individual to consider cognition distributed across teams, communities and systems, and a future involving the study of rich and dynamic social and organizational contexts in which the interplay between cognition, emotion, and attitudes provides a deeper explanation of behavior with IS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-314
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Affordances
  • Cognition
  • Cooperativity
  • Decision support systems
  • Fit
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Interactivity
  • Systems development


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