Formal Aspects of Computing

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 513-550

First online:

An approach to formal verification of human–computer interaction

  • Paul CurzonAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science, Queen Mary, University of London
  • , Rimvydas RukšėnasAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science, Queen Mary, University of London Email author 
  • , Ann BlandfordAffiliated withUniversity College London Interaction Centre

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The correct functioning of interactive computer systems depends on both the faultless operation of the device and correct human actions. In this paper, we focus on system malfunctions due to human actions. We present abstract principles that generate cognitively plausible human behaviour. These principles are then formalised in a higher-order logic as a generic, and so retargetable, cognitive architecture, based on results from cognitive psychology. We instantiate the generic cognitive architecture to obtain specific user models. These are then used in a series of case studies on the formal verification of simple interactive systems. By doing this, we demonstrate that our verification methodology can detect a variety of realistic, potentially erroneous actions, which emerge from the combination of a poorly designed device and cognitively plausible human behaviour.


Formal verification Human error Formal cognitive architecture Interactive systems, Theorem proving