Getting Access to What Goes on in People´s Heads? Reflections on the Think-aloud Technique

Janni Nielsen, Torkil Clemmensen, Carsten Yssing

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearch


    One of the basic usability testing techniques the HCI community draws on, and which stands out as unique, is thinking aloud. We introduce the many names, uses and modifications of the classical think aloud technique, and ask the rhetorical question: What do researchers think they get when they ask people to think aloud? We answer it by discussing the classical work of Ericsson and Simon(1984), in particular their distinction between vocalisation, verbalisation and retrospective reports and the relation to short term memory. Reintroducing the psychological perspective and the focus on higher order cognitive processes, we argue that access to subjective experience is possible in terms of introspection and describe a technique that invites the user to become a participant in the analysis of his or her own cognitive processes. We suggest that use of think aloud has as a prerequisite explicit descriptions of design, test procedure and framework for analysis. We point out, however, that if the aim is to get access to human thinking, HCI research may benefit from experimental research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of NordiCHI, October 19-23, 2002, ACM SIGCHI, Aarhus
    EditorsOlav W. Bertelsen, Susanne Bødker, Kari Kuutti
    Place of PublicationNew York, NY
    PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
    Publication date2002
    ISBN (Print)1581136161
    Publication statusPublished - 2002
    EventGetting Access to What Goes on in People´s Heads? -
    Duration: 30 Jun 2010 → …


    ConferenceGetting Access to What Goes on in People´s Heads?
    Period30/06/2010 → …

    Cite this