As the title said, which cognitive psychology book I can use when working on the web/mobile applications?

8 Answers 8


I like Parkin's Essential Cognitive Psychology. It's not the most modern, but that really doesn't matter (more modern texts might provide more information on the underlying neuroscience, but it doesn't really alter most of the theory). Parkin is very readable (unlike the authors of many other cognitive psychology texts — my students hated Eysenck & Keane, for instance) and gives a good overview of the basics in perception and attention, which I think are key to understanding what psychology has to offer UXers about any interface design. You will, from here, perhaps want to go further and explore some of the topics in more depth, but that's easily done by googling/using Google Scholar once you've got the basic ideas and vocabulary under your belt.

The only thing I'd want to see covered, but that isn't, is Cognitive Load Theory, but I'd say the wikipedia entry I'm linking to there is good enough for a general overview.

Have fun! Cog psy has a bad rep as being dry, but it's actually great fun and has so much to teach UX.

  • Thanks! I just bought it and it seems interesting. I also got "Designing with the mind in mind", which seems to help in introducing me to cognitive psychology (even though it's beginner material in terms of design-related information).
    – Mashhoor
    Jul 4, 2011 at 8:16
  • Great — hope you enjoy :) I've been meaning to read "Designing with the mind in mind", actually, so thanks for the reminder! Jul 4, 2011 at 8:26
  • update: Man, I can barely understand a thing from this book :(. Is there something more mainstream friendly? I can't go this deep with my first book.
    – Mashhoor
    Jul 4, 2011 at 20:10
  • Oh man, I'm really sorry. Can you be more specific about what you're finding hard? Is it the terminology, or is it making assumptions about your prior knowledge? Let me know and I'll see if I can suggest something else. Jul 4, 2011 at 22:34
  • I don't know it seemed too "hardcore for me". The book I mentioned earlier tied both UX and Cognitive Psychology very nicely. Any other suggestions?
    – Mashhoor
    Jul 13, 2011 at 13:54

The best place to start is the classic The design of everyday things by Donald Norman. Even if it is over 20 years old there is nothing that compares to it. The Design of Everyday Things Don Norman Then for advanced reading I recommend Holland and Wickens' Engineering Psychology and Human Performance. Engineering Psychology and Human Performance (3rd Edition) Christopher Wickens

  • This book was originally called "The psychology of everyday things" because it's about psychology. Don Norman started his career as an academic cognitive psychologist.
    – PhillipW
    Aug 28, 2018 at 22:57

For Psychology for IT applications: you can't really beat:

Human Computer Interaction - Dix, Finlay, Abowd, Beale. That's the book that got me started in the field.

I can't speak specifically for Cognitive Psychology, but 2 books that will give you a great understanding of Psychology as a whole (including Cognitive Psychology) are the books by:

They are basically great introductory books to the field so will give you a great on which to build from.


For an undergraduate course that I took in cognitive psychology, the textbook we used was Groome's An Introduction to Cognitive Psychology: Processes and Disorders. It is quite comprehensive, and covers the whole field of cognitive psychology, including various cognitive disorders. It's mainly intended for psychology students, so you won't find many human-computer interaction examples in there, but it is quite accessible and doesn't require a lot of background knowledge.


The other answers have good technical books on the subject. Some more "entry-level" but highly enjoyable books are:

  1. Emotional Design by Don Norman
  2. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
  3. How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
  4. The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

I liked Susan Weinschenk's Neuro Web Design ( http://www.whatmakesthemclick.net/about/ ) . Susan also has a newer book (100 things every designer needs to know about people) which I've not read.


For an interesting introduction to cognitive psychology I would recommend "Mind Hacks: Tips and Tricks for Using Your Brain" by Tom Stafford and Matt Webb. It's ideal for lunchtime reading as each "Hack" can be read more or less independently. I originally read this online (Safari) but still went out and bought a hard copy.


Not particularly related to web or mobile but gives a really good background to Cognitive psychology: Cognitive Psychology: A Student's Handbook, 6th Edition

Specifically relating to web design I would recommend: Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click?

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