Category Archives: Perception and Performance

Smiling Trashcan

Friendly Trash Can

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This is a great example of affective design. For the unfamiliar, affective design is the integration of emotional considerations into user experience design. It can go in two directions:

  • Using biometrics or facial recognition to model the user’s emotional state and to customize the UX accordingly. For example we know that users who are angry have narrower scope of attention so we can provide more salient cues for peripheral indicators.
  • Using design techniques that intentionally induce a particular emotion in a user to evoke a behavior associated with that emotion. For example we can use design patterns that are associated with anger if we want to narrow the user’s attentional scope.

    The secret of success, they believe, is not just to devise furnishings that will do what they are told, but to give them personalities, convincing their owners that communication with them is a two-way process

light saber fight

Life Imitating Art

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This article was sent in by a loyal EID reader. John Cassidy at the New Yorker examines the social media strategy that ISIS has used as a core part of its operations. He concludes that their success is only possible because of the warped reality we get by learning about the world through technology-mediated communication such as social media and the cognitive short-cuts it generates. Most of us see ISIS as much worse than they really are. Their recruits see their solution as something much better than it really is. Much more than anyone seeing them in person would. Their whole operation may not be possible without this.

With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, the neofundamentalists, or some of them, have gained a territorial foothold in eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq. But ISIS and other radical groups still rely heavily on information technology. In addition to using the Internet to recruit and to plan attacks, they know they can rely on it to amplify the immediate impact of their atrocities, especially “spectaculars” like the one carried out in Paris. That’s because the virtual community of jihadis and sympathizers that Roy identified isn’t the only one the Internet has created. As the past week and a half has made clear, there is also a global community of virtual witnesses to terrorism—a group of which we are nearly all members.

many snow white dolls

The Uncanny Valley in User Experience

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We have discussed the phenomenon of the uncanny valley here before. It is the phenomenon in which a robot or animation looks enough like a human to trigger our neural human recognition system but unhuman enough to trigger our neural mismatch/somethings wrong system (I can go into the neuroanatomy if someone asks in the comments).

Recent experiments suggest that I’m not alone in my discomfort. Colin Strong, a marketing consultant in the UK, storyboared several high tech customization scenarios, ranging from the simple (targeted direct mail) to the sophisticated, like health insurance companies crawling info on your food purchase habits to adjust your premiums. When he showed the scenarios to subjects, he found that the more personalized the services got, the more people liked them – until they got too personalized.

Selfies and Memory

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I don’t take selfies.

Don’t get me wrong; I love photographs. I have them up all over my walls at home and my office. But the process of selfie-taking is where the problem arises.

“Photos are no longer about remembering an event; they’re about displaying, showing the world who we are.”

Donald Trump and Clip Art

Symbols versus Reality in Decision Making and Behavior

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For this week’s episode of Human Factors in History, we went back into the archives to find this great study by Richard LaPiere from the 1930s. It is particularly useful to revisit studies like this one because it is unlikely that we could do anything similar today. Read on to find out why.

escape room game

Escape Room Creativity Builder

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I have been voraciously reading the literature on creativity over the past year. Not the crap that comes out of the self-help literature or even in the entrepreneurship mass media. These are pretty trivial and often shortchange the science. There have been many serious research studies that have broad implications for individual and business creative output. But I am not planning on sharing that research today. That will have to wait for another day. Today I want to share a really interesting creative exercise that seems to follow (intentional or not I cannot say) some of the guidelines suggested by the research.

This exercise is the Escape Room (warning – gated). You may have seen it on an episode of the Big Bang Theory last year.

an app that allows picking of a time based on a round clock

EID Hall of Fame: Time Picker Widget

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I have mixed feelings about this design, so I thought I would ask for your thoughts. Please let me know if you think this is an improvement on the current time pickers that we have.

The date picker UI widget is common. It’s a mini-calendar, and the user simply clicks on the day they want. But time pickers are still in the dark ages. they are usually a drop down menu where you have to scroll down to the time you want. My solution is a time picker widget that uses the metaphor of a clock face.

traffic light

History of Traffic Signals

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I am happy to share a new theme that we are starting today that will appear now and again on EID. As many of you know, I a big fan of history. It is a cliché to say that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. But there is a lot we can learn from the scientific, legal, and cultural practices of our ancestors as well as from those around the world that our ancestors never even knew existed. That is the notion in which we are going to frame this new history theme.

I was listening to the Dinner Party Download podcast (a fun weekend diversion if you are interested) and I heard this story about the history of traffic lights. The human factors of the original design immediately jumped to mind, even if they didn’t call it by that name back in 1868 when the first gas powered lamps were used or 1914 when they switched to electric.

Light bulb rainbow


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Synesthesia is a condition where presentation of one perceptual class consistently evokes additional experiences in different perceptual categories. Synesthesia is widely considered a congenital condition, although an alternative view is that it is underpinned by repeated exposure to combined perceptual features at key developmental stages.

When I first heard about synesthesia, I thought it was a little hokey. But when I discovered it was real, I was fascinated – perhaps because I don’t seem to have much sensitivity in my individual senses. To have them multiply active – well – I am jealous.

thumbs up

Placebos for Your Placebos

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As you know by now, I am a fan of placebos. They often provide significant benefits and with fewer side effects and much lower costs than “real” medication. How can you argue with that? Just because you are deceived in the process. I am happy to be an advocate, but not an ignorant one. And since I am always telling you about effective placebos, I should be fair and balanced and also tell you when they are not effective.

So I am biting the bullet and sharing with you a paper I just read by a neuroscience team from the University Medical Center in Hamburg, Germany. They used a very small placebo, so that could explain the lack of results, but I thought I should share it anyway.