Technology as Teammate: Examining the Role of External Cognition in Support of Team Cognitive Processes


In this paper we advance team theory by describing how cognition occurs across the distribution of members and the artifacts and technology that support their efforts. We draw from complementary theorizing coming out of cognitive engineering and cognitive science that views forms of cognition as external and extended and integrate this with theorizing on macrocognition in teams. Two frameworks are described that provide the groundwork for advancing theory and aid in the development of more precise measures for understanding team cognition via focus on artifacts and the technologies supporting their development and use. This includes distinctions between teamwork and taskwork and the notion of general and specific competencies from the organizational sciences along with the concepts of offloading and scaffolding from the cognitive sciences. This paper contributes to the team cognition literature along multiple lines. First, it aids theory development by synthesizing a broad set of perspectives on the varied forms of cognition emerging in complex collaborative contexts. Second, it supports research by providing diagnostic guidelines to study how artifacts are related to team cognition. Finally, it supports information systems designers by more precisely describing how to conceptualize team-supporting technology and artifacts. As such, it provides a means to more richly understand process and performance as it occurs within sociotechnical systems. Our overarching objective is to show how team cognition can both be more clearly conceptualized and more precisely measured by integrating theory from cognitive engineering and the cognitive and organizational sciences.

Frontiers in Psychology