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Distributed cognition is a school of psychology developed in the 1990s by Edwin Hutchins. Using insights from sociology, cognitive science, and the psychology of Vygotsky (cf activity theory) it emphasises the social aspects of cognition.

Distributed cognition is a branch of cognitive science that proposes that human knowledge and cognition are not confined to the individual. Instead, it is distributed by placing memories, facts, or knowledge on the objects, individuals, and tools in our environment. Distributed cognition is a useful approach for (re)designing social aspects of cognition by putting emphasis on the individual and their environment. Distributed cognition views a system as a set of representations, and models the interchange of information between these representations. These representations can be either in the mental space of the participants or external representations available in the environment.


  • Hutchins, E. (1995) Cognition in the Wild (ISBN 0262581469) (MIT Press).
  • Hutchins, E. (1995) "How a cockpit remembers its speeds". Cognitive Science, 19, 265-288.
  • Norman, D.A. (1993) "Things that make us smart" (Addison-Wesley).
  • Perry, M. (2003) "Distributed Cognition". In J.M. Carroll (Ed.) "HCI Models, Theories, and Frameworks: Toward an Interdisciplinary Science" (Morgan Kaufmann) 193-223.
  • Rogers, Y. and Scaife, M. (1997) 'Distributed Cognition'.
  • Zhang, J. & Norman, D.A. (1994) "Representations in Distributed Cognitive Tasks", Cognitive Science, 18, 87-122.
  • Salomon, Gavriel. (1993) Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations. (ISBN 0521574234) (Cambridge University Press).

See also

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