Found the following while slogging through google results for a
search on "pointy sticks" (see The Pointy Stick Compendium Project)
While it was on a web site devoted to web site design, the phrase
"cognitive friction" seems applicable to many woodworking tools
and woodworking methods developed for power tools. Making
dovetails with a router, dovetail bit and a jig like the Akeda or
Leigh involve a high degree of cogniative friction. Hanductting
them is a low cognitative friction process.
I also like the last line in this excerpt - if things don't work
IT'S YOUR FAULT.
Interaction design guru Alan Cooper (www.cooper.com) defined this term
to describe the mental stretch caused when tools behave in a way that
seems unrelated to what you wanted. I find it extremely helpful in
illustrating the ever-present anxiety of being a normal web user.
[Editor’s note - the term “web user” can be replaced by “woodworking
Note: Alan describes this much better in his excellent book "The Inmates
are Running the Asylum". Please buy it.
In times gone by, using a tool to do something was a simple affair. e.g.
Gather friends > take sticks > make stick pointy > poke mammoth with
sticks > repeat until mammoth falls over. The pointy stick is very low
in cognitive friction: its purpose and form are directly related. Even
if you'd never used a pointy stick before, you could imagine how you
could use it simply by looking at it or handling it. If you stick
yourself in the leg with it, you understood why you'd been stuck in the
leg, and you would learn how to avoid getting stuck in the leg again.
Todays' tools are generally high in cognitive friction: their form and
purpose are more often unrelated.
Another effect you notice with cognitive friction is: if something
doesn't work, you're made to think it's your fault."
Just something to think about - or not.