The role of representative design in an ecological approach to cognition

Psychol Bull. 2004 Nov;130(6):959-88. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.130.6.959.


Egon Brunswik argued that psychological processes are adapted to environmental properties. He proposed the method of representative design to capture these processes and advocated that psychology be a science of organism-environment relations. Representative design involves randomly sampling stimuli from the environment or creating stimuli in which environmental properties are preserved. This departs from systematic design. The authors review the development of representative design, examine its use in judgment and decision-making research, and demonstrate the effect of design on research findings. They suggest that some of the practical difficulties associated with representative design may be overcome with modern technologies. The importance of representative design in psychology and the implications of this method for ecological approaches to cognition are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Decision Making
  • Ecology*
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Sampling Studies