A cognitive artifact is a tool to think with

A cognitive artifact is a tool to think with. According to the distributed cognition thesis, various artifacts such as pen and paper, calculators, calendars, maps, notations, models, computers, shopping lists, traffic signals, measurement units, etc, allow cognitive operations external to the mind-brain.


Their influence on cognitive capabilities can be described as possessing a dual identity. On the one hand, cognitive tools act on problem-solving efficiency: they may reduce the cost of a cognitive operation, or allow new capabilities that would be impossible to the mind-brain alone.

For Ed Hutchins (1999, p.126), the “cognitive artifacts are physical objects made by humans in order to assist, enhance or improve cognition.”

On the other hand, cognitive-tools are also responsible for the existence itself of certain tasks, i.e., they participate in the creation of new problems.

Pedro Ata & João Queiroz

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