From theory to practice : a roadmap for applying dual-process theory in design cognition research

Lawrie, Emma and Flus, Meagan and Olechowski, Alison and Hay, Laura and Wodehouse, Andrew (2024) From theory to practice : a roadmap for applying dual-process theory in design cognition research. Journal of Engineering Design. pp. 1-21. ISSN 1466-1837 (

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Dual-process theory categorises cognition into two types of processing: Type 1 which is intuitive, autonomous processing, and Type 2 which is reflective processing that burdens limited executive cognitive resources (i.e. working memory). A recent call for increased theory-driven research in the field of design has led to a framing of dual-process theory as a foundation for design research. This research note presents a roadmap for future dual-process theory-driven design research outlining three main stages: defining dual-process theory constructs, determining research focus, and selecting research methods. Across these stages, we offer a conceptualisation of dual-process theory for design researchers, outlining the main concepts of the theory. We then present how a research study design must consider the nature of design problems (complex, ill-structured, ambiguous), designers, and the practice of design. Finally, we outline the main methods employed in dual-process theory research: behavioural, physiological, and self-report measures, suggesting ways to adapt such methods to design contexts. Ultimately, this work presents how dual-process theory may connect with theories of cognition often considered in design and offers a path forward for dual-process theory-driven design research.