A process or state in which cognitive resources are shared socially in order to extend individual cognitive resources or to accomplish something that an individual person could not achieve alone. Hutchins (1995) demonstrated how artefacts and the people working with them form distributed functional systems by means of which complex real-world tasks, problems, and situations are addressed. Artefacts also help to transmit representations from one participant to another, a process during which representations often change form, such as from analogical to digital, or from visual to conceptual. It is emphasized how cognition may be distributed among minds (socially distributed cognition) or between minds and artefacts (physically distributed cognition) rather than located within an individual human mind. The concept is often used as a synonym for 'collective mind'. Individual and distributed cognitions are in interaction; they co-evolve, and reciprocally affect one another.


Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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