HBMS > HBMS Research Topics > HCM-Language

Cognitive Models

Every person builds cognitive models based on daily perceptions and experiences. A cognitive model is an individual map of the daily life and reflects our know-how.
This means we save every day our own individual behavior in our brain.


Human Cognitive Modeling Language (HCM-L)

HCM-L is defined to model a persons‘ steps of behavior and the contexts the steps are taking place within; i.e. with HCM-L we build artificial cognitive models for later support.

The HCM-L syntax is described by a meta model, the semantics by explanation and the notation by a set of graphical elements.


The main meta-model elements are:

  • Behavioral Unit
  • Goal
  • Person
  • Operation
  • Flow
  • Thing
  • Connection

The notation consists of a small set of graphical elements.

For creating it, we have considered the nine principles for designing cognitively effective visual notations [Mo09]. There is for example a 1:1 relation between the semantic constructs and the graphical symbols (demiotic clarity), we're using icons and semantically transparent relations (semantic transparency), there are aggregation and specialization possibilities between Behavioral Units and Operations to model hierarchies and methods for modularization (complexity management) or integrated views to make different contexts easily understandable for users (cognitive integration).

For more detailed information see [Mi14].



Creating a HCM-L model starts from the most prominent elements in human behavior: activities. We call the resp. concept Behavioral Unit (BU).


Daily life activities usually have a goal which is reached by performing a sequence of actions. These actions are captured by the HCM-L concept Operation, graphically drawn inside the resp. BU (expressing that a BU ‘consists’ of operations) and linked by Flows. Having executed an operation without outgoing flow means that the BU’s goal is reached, i.e. in our example: ‘new standing order is created’.


Create a standing order may be part of a larger BU ‘use the online banking system’; as well, more detailed information about actions may be needed for support; e.g. to request a SMS TAN, again a sequence of actions might be necessary. Therefore operations can be BUs, too. Thus, HCM-L allows for hierarchical structures.


Clearly, support information can not only be derived from dynamic structures. HCM-L, therefore, provides concepts for modeling structural contexts as well.For further information, please refer to [MM13]. A comprehensive control pattern-based analysis [MM12] revealed, that all relevant semantics can be expressed using HCM-L when modeling activities of human behavior, their hierarchies, and the relevant context information.


There may be alternative actions like the three ways to receive a Transaction Authentication Number (TAN); Pre- and Post-Condition Expressions allow arbitrary granularity for the control flow (graphically simply by naming the logical operator, see XOR in Figure 2). Exactly this naming of the logical operators leads us to the basic problem, we try to solve with this project proposal: It is not easy to understand them.


The HCM-L concepts were derived from analyzing the target AAL domain of (instrumental) activities of daily life [Ka83] and their context [KM05]. For more detailed information see [MM13] and [Mi14].



[Ka83] Katz, S.: Assessing self-maintenance. Activities of daily living, mobility, and instrumental activities of daily living American Geriatrics Society, New York NY (1983)

[KM05] Kofod-Petersen, A., Mikalsen, M.: Context: Representation and Reasoning, Special issue of the Revue d'Intelligence Artificielle on "Applying Context-Management" (2005)

[Mi13] Michael, J., Grießer, A., Strobl, T., Mayr, H.C.: Cognitive Modeling and Support for Ambient Assistance. In: Proc. UNISCON 2012, LNBIP 137, pp. 96-107. Springer. (2013)

[Mi14] Michael, J.: Kognitive Modellierung für Assistenzsysteme (PhD Thesis), Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt (2014)

[MM12] Mayr, H.C., Michael, J.: Control pattern based analysis of HCM-L, a language for cognitive modeling. In: International Conference on Advances in ICT for Emerging Regions (ICTer2012), pp 169-175, IEEE (2012)

[MM13] Michael, J., Mayr, H.C.: Conceptual Modeling for Ambient Assistance. In: Ng, W., Storey, V.C., Trujillo, J. (eds.) Conceptual Modeling - ER 2013, LNCS 8217, pp 403-413, Springer (2013)

[Mo09] Moody, D.: The “Physics” of Notations: Toward a Scientific Basis for Constructing Visual Notations in Software Engineering. IEEE Trans. Software Eng. 35, 756–779 (2009)