Interactivity and cognition

Photo by Senjin Pojskić on pixabay

People’s decisions, choices, judgments, inferences or ideas are commonly conceived as resulting from mental operations applied on mental representations. It follows, naturally, that cognitive theories and studies put a disproportionate emphasis on what happens inside the head, at the expense of what can happen outside the head, at participants’ fingertips.

The research conducted within this programme has demonstrated that when the context affords hands-on manipulations, people are more likely to achieve higher levels of performance. The reasons for this interactivity effect remain unclear. Our current efforts focus on better understand developing our conceptual understanding of cognition as it emerges from the transactions between thought and action.

The research work so far examined the role interactivity can play in improving performance in various cognitive tasks including Bayesian reasoning, planning, problem-solving, and mental arithmetic. A key finding for this programme of research is the fact that cognitive performance leaps up when people are free to move about information-bearing objects with their hands while they think. We are exploring the methodological and theoretical implications of these findings. Current developments include a new theoretical framework, the Systemic Thinking Model (SysTM), and applications to entrepreneurial cognition and career decision-making.


  • Prof Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau
  • Prof Sune Vork Steffensen
  • Dr Niyat Henok
  • Dr Miroslav Sirota
  • Ms Helen Hallpike
Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau
Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau
Professor of Behavioural Science

My research focuses on understanding how people handle risk and uncertainty. How they perceive and communicate risks, how they make decisions in the face of uncertainty.