Computational Rationality as a Theory of Interaction

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

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


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 rationality. 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 publicationACM SIGCHI annual conference on human factors in computing systems
ISBN (Electronic)9781450391573
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2022
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventACM SIGCHI Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - New Orleans, United States
Duration: 30 Apr 20225 May 2022


ConferenceACM SIGCHI Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Abbreviated titleACM CHI
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans


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


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