I'm looking for practical applications or studies where the application has been developed for users with different cognitive styles.

I'm mostly interested in those using Nisbett's cognitive thinking theory (holistic vs. analytical thinking) and user interfaces.

So far I have two:

Do you know of any prototypes that have been developed this way? Any multicultural user interfaces / prototypes that has been developed using works of Nisbett, Hofstede, Hall etc.?


1 Answer 1


The almost six year old study performed by Ying Dong and Kun-Pyo Lee at the Industrial Design Department, KAIST, Daejeon, Korea named A Cross-Cultural Comparative Study of Users' Perceptions of a Webpage: With a Focus on the Cognitive Styles of Chinese, Koreans and Americans compares different cognitive styles based on Nisbetts' research. The study object is a web based prototype inspired by the Yahoo! website.

Nisbett (2001, 2002, 2003) proposed that the thought patterns of East Asians and Westerners differ greatly and classified these differences as holistic and analytic. Holistically-minded people have a tendency to perceive a scene globally, in other words, to perceive the context and the field as a whole. They also tend to focus on the relationships between objects and the field, meaning that they are more field-dependent. On the other hand, analytically-minded people have a tendency to perceive an object separately from the scene and tend to assign objects into categories. Analytically-minded people are more field-independent.

In this study from 2008 the study objects were

... Chinese, Koreans (both holistic thinkers), and Americans (analytic thinkers) were recruited for the experiment. Findings from the analysis suggest that the Chinese, Korean, and American participants employed different viewing patterns when viewing a webpage. The Chinese and Korean subjects showed more similarities to holistic thought patterns, while the American subjects showed more similarities to analytic thought patterns.

They also present a very interesting chart explaining these differences:

enter image description here

No real suprise there. There are differences, and if possible one should have these differences in mind when designing for different cognitive styles.

The authors also present design guidelines for these different cognitive styles:

For Holistically-minded People

In order to cater to holistically-minded people's way of browsing a webpage, which involves obtaining an overall big picture by scanning the entire page, content design should show the whole context of the website.

Since holistically-minded people tend to scan the whole page and show non-linear scanning patterns, the contents could be placed more freely on the page compared to when it is designed for analytically-minded people.

When designing a webpage for holistically-minded people, the harmony between the foreground and background as well as the relationship among all of the content areas should be taken into account. This guideline is derived directly from Nisbett's theory, while it has not been proved by this study.

For Analytically-minded People

The webpage design should be as clear and simple as possible. Major categories and highlighted contents on the webpage may cater to usage by analytically-minded people. The webpage layout should be clear enough to be read by users who focus on each information group.

Since analytically-minded people tend to employ a sequential reading pattern among areas and to read from the center to the periphery of the page, the arrangement of all content areas must be considered carefully.

Category title and navigation items should be named as clearly as possible since analytically-minded people tend to pay more attention to these items and to gain an overall picture of the website from them.

When designing webpages for analytically-minded people, efforts must be directed toward designing each content area. Independent content areas should be emphasized. This is directly from Nisbett's theory, while it has not been proved by this study.

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