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Coherence And Correspondence In Engineering Design Evaluations

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Design Cognition

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.332.1 - 14.332.11



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Paper Authors


Jonathan Evans MIT

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Jonathan R. Evans earned his Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Utah in 2007. He has spent time designing devices ranging from nuclear waste processing equipment to special effects technology. He is currently working on his Master's degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Mechanical Engineering. His research focuses on the application of decision-making cognitive methods to the engineering design process.

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Konstantinos Katsikopoulos Max Planck Institute for Human Development

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Konstantinos V. Katsikopoulos received his Ph.D. in industrial engineering and operations research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1999. Since then, he has held visiting faculty positions at the Naval Postgraduate School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the latter visit was partly funded by a German Science Foundation Fellowship for Young Researchers). He is currently a senior research scientist at the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. He works on the modeling of decisions that people (laypeople and experts) make or should make with limited time, information, and computation.

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Chad Foster MIT

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Chad Foster earned a BS degree in Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in 1998. He then went on to earn a MS degree in Mechanical
Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2000. After spending five years working as an Engineer at Cummins Inc., he returned to school and is currently pursuing a PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His primary research interests are around early-phase robust design and improving experimental techniques.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Coherence and Correspondence in Engineering Design Evaluations

Abstract Much of the formal education in engineering design focuses on the teaching of analytical methods. Analysis allows one to make coherent statements about the performance of designs. There are situations in design and design education, however, where it is appropriate to use intuition: A focus on intuition sometimes allows one to make statements that correspond well with the real performance of designs. Here we studied such a situation.

Students in a design course competition were asked to make quick evaluations of the performance of other students’ designs. The surveys also contained either analysis-inducing questions or intuition-inducing questions. We found that the students put in the intuitive, correspondence-based mode, evaluated design performance more accurately. While, given this finding, the correspondence mode is more appropriate in this situation, we found a lack of consensus among design instructors and practitioners about which mode would be more effective.

In sum, our results indicate that the engineering curriculum should include methods of correspondence-based, intuitive decision-making and that instructors should be sufficiently aware of these methods to help students identify situations where they should be employed.

Introduction The majority of formal education in engineering focuses on analytical problems and analytical solutions to those problems. There are many decision situations in the design process, including educational design, which could benefit from intuitive or methodologies.

During a student design course, students were presented with a decision situation evaluating the performance of alternative designs. This situation was created to favor the intuitive methodology, and it was shown through student surveys that they were more accurate when in the intuitive mode versus the analytic mode. On the other hand, there was a lack of consensus among instructors about the performance difference when asked which mode would be more effective.

Engineering curriculum should include aspects of intuition-based decisions and help students identify situations where they are more effective rather than solely relying on analytical decision- making methods.

Background Engineers must make decisions repeatedly throughout their careers. They are confronted with multiple design, material, or manufacturing alternatives and must decide which alternative presents the best design option. The thought processes used for these decisions are not very well understood. Research in the field of decision-making has produced two metrics for good decision-making: coherence and correspondence. Research by Kenneth Hammond5,6,7 has shown that these two metrics are not exclusive, as was once thought, but are actually complementary. These two metrics, correspondence and coherence, describe the underlying goal of the decision making process while intuition and analysis describe the process.

Evans, J., & Katsikopoulos, K., & Foster, C. (2009, June), Coherence And Correspondence In Engineering Design Evaluations Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4747

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