Research in the Day Cognition Lab examines everyday cognitive phenomena at both ends of this continuum and at intermediate points as well. For example, we observed that people often make mistakes in taking prescription medications. We examined the written information provided to them, such as hospital release forms (Day, 1988) and pharmacy leaflets (Day, 1998), and found problems with "cognitive accessibility." We redesigned these materials, had people study either the original or revised versions in a controlled laboratory setting, then tested their memory, comprehension, and problem solving. Performance improved (sometimes dramatically) with the revised materials. We are in the process of studying the revised materials back in real-world settings, to determine their effects on cognition and behavior.
Current projects focus primarily on four everyday domains and include such disparate settings as hospitals and dance floors. Basic cognitive processes are at the core of each project, as shown below.
Research on everyday cognition provides many practical applications for the everyday world. It also provides implications for traditional laboratory studies of cognition. For example, it reveals whether well-studied cognitive phenomena and principles are general in nature or are confined to laboratory paradigms. Some cognitive principles may operate in the same ways across a wide variety of contexts, while others may work differently with more complex materials, in more complex situations, and/or different types of people. Furthermore, some cognitive phenomena and principles may be discovered only in the real world.