Computational rationality as a theory of interaction

Antti Oulasvirta, Jussi P. P. Jokinen, Andrew Howes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


How do people interact with computers? This fundamental question was asked by Card, Moran, and Newell in 1983 with a proposition to frame it as a question about human cognition – in other words, as a matter of how information is processed in the mind. Recently, the question has been reframed as one of adaptation: how do people adapt their interaction to the limits imposed by cognition, device design, and environment? The paper synthesizes advances toward an answer within the theoretical framework of computational ra- tionality. The core assumption is that users act in accordance with what is best for them, given the limits imposed by their cognitive architecture and their experience of the task environment. This theory can be expressed in computational models that explain and predict interaction. The paper reviews the theoretical commitments and emerging applications in HCI, and it concludes by outlining a research agenda for future work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCHI '22
Subtitle of host publicationCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
EditorsSimone Barbosa, Cliff Lampe, Caroline Appert, David A. Shamma, Steven Drucker, Julie Williamson, Koji Yatani
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781450391573
ISBN (Print)9781450391573
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2022
EventCHI '22: CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - New Orleans, United States
Duration: 29 Apr 20225 May 2022

Publication series

NameConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings


ConferenceCHI '22
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Finnish Center for AI and Academy of Finland (“BAD” and “Human Automata”). We thank our reviewers, Xiuli Chen, Joerg Mueller, Christian Guckelsberger, Sebastiaan de Peuter, Samuel Kaski, Pierre-Alexandre Murena, Antti Keuru-lainen, Suyog Chandramouli, and Roderick Murray-Smith for their comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 ACM.


  • Cognitive modeling
  • adaptation
  • computational rationality
  • individual differences
  • interaction
  • reinforcement learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Software


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