Achieving Cognitive Fit is Easier than Social Fit

  • cognitive fit - how good a tool is on some specific axis
  • social fit - how well adopted in the community
  • it's often easy for the users to know when some (even imaginary) tool is better at a specific task - hence the "cognitive fit" part is relatively easy, when compared to "socially fitting" the tool into a community of users
  • this also answers why some "obviously better" tools can fail - they didn't manage to find a good "social fit"

Designing and implementing tools with a good cognitive fit for user and task is an exercise in removing gratuitous difficulties and finding familiar, expressive interface metaphors. Because there is an existing way the task is being performed by existing users (...), it is possible to invent a new tool idea and quickly test the idea with users to see if it in fact makes a task easier. Often users are able to state with confidence whether or not they believe a new way of doing a task will be easier and more efficient based solely on hearing the idea, without having the new tool implemented. However, designing and implementing a dissemination strategy with a good social fit for the user community is far more difficult. A good social fit means users eagerly give up an old tool and adopt a new tool. The time constant in social fit (new product adoption cycle) is typically much longer than the time constant for cognitive fit (duration of an authoring task). New tools that are free to try, easy to learn, similar to existing tools, demonstrate rapid payback, small and fast are likely to spread rapidly in a community of users.

— ATG Education Research - The Authoring Tools Thread - Jim Spohrer

  • since Achieving Cognitive Fit is Easier than Social Fit maybe instead of focusing on strategies for adopting tools (achieving "social fit") a good tool-making kit would allow users to create their own cognitively-fitted tools without having to worry about the social fit (making tools just for themselves); of course the tool-building tool has to have a good "social fit" first...
Szymon Kaliski © 2021
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