What is CSE?

About Cognitive Systems Engineering

Cognitive Systems Engineering or CSE is a discipline that uses systematic methods of cognitive analysis and cognitive design to ensure that cognitive work is both efficient and robust. The aim is to amplify and extend the human capability to know, perceive, decide, plan, act and collaborate by integrating system functions with the cognitive processes they need to support. Note that this is not about integrating humans into systems or humans with systems. The focus is on cognitive work with a particular emphasis on how we might employ technological functionality to support that work. (Project Performance International) Building things for people and integrating design with people in mind is the main core of what CSE builds.

CSE Synthesizes Knowledge From MultipleDisciplines


  • Computer Supported Cooperative Work
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Industrial Design/Information Visualization
  • Physical Ergonomics
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Usability Engineering

What are the examples of CSE in history?                                      Understanding  the  History  of  CSE


One of the best ways of understanding CSE in history is finding examples where CSE was not applied and therefore catastrophic consequences occurred. With any system, especially human and machine teams, there is a possibility for failure which CSE applies concepts to reduce. Examples of the failure to use CSE are NASA examples such as Apollo 1 and Challenger 1986, Old and current airline crashes, Nuclear power failures such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, and a multitude of industrial and manufacturing failure examples. In classes like ISE 3700, we break down these failure modes through the lens that CSE gives us in order to find the root causes of what went wrong and then to prevent future mistakes of high gravity like these.

Who Funds CSE Research (US)                                                        Two CSE Experts Consulting Professionals   


  • Military/DOD (DARPA, ARDA, all services)
  • Aviation (NASA Ames, Glenn, Langley, FAA, NIA)
  • Space Flight (NASA Headquarters)
  • Transportation (FHA, NHTSA, NRA/Volpe, companies)
  • National Science Foundation 
  • Nuclear Power (NRC, EPRI)
  • Healthcare (VA, NPSF, AHRQ, FDA, CMS, ONC, NIST, NIH)
  • Physical Ergonomics (NIH, NIOSH)

What are future applications or other applications of CSE?


It truly seems like there are no facets of our current world where CSE is not applicable. CSE is applied to product design, human behaviors and abilities, and overall understanding of human interaction with technology and how to better improve these. Understanding many CSE concepts such as mental models, mapping, decision making, heuristics, and bias can then be used to understand a system and how to improve it.

                               A depiction of Macrocognitive Functions