A methodology for studying design cognition in the real world

Bo T. Christensen


The in vivo research methodology holds promise to improve some of the limitations of typical design cognition methodologies. Whereas typical design cognition methodology use protocol analysis (utilizing special ‘think-aloud’ instructions and/or artificial settings) or retrospective analyses, in vivo research attempts to study design thinking and reasoning ‘live’ or ‘online’ as it takes place in the real world. No special instructions are used since the method relies on natural dialogue taking place between designers. By recording verbalizations at product development meetings (or other suitable objects of study), transcribing, and coding the data, it is possible to test hypotheses about design cognition in the real-world. This promises to improve the ecological validity over typical design cognition studies. Problems with the methodology include labor-intensiveness leading to small samples (possible sampling errors). To deal with this problem, it is recommended to supplement in vivo research with traditional larger sample laboratory studies.

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