Category Archives: Perception and Performance

a pile of tools of all sorts

Entooled Cognition

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Consider this quote from Catie Lazarus in a recent Fast Company article:

My dad always told me that when you’re handed a test, put your pencil down and don’t write a thing.

My post today is the next in a series of posts: from embodied cognition to enclothed cognition and now entooled cognition…

a man being interviewed by a woman

Ethics of Nudging with False Information

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This paper got me thinking of an ethical issue that many of us face with cognitive engineering and behavioral design. Part of our mission is to design products, systems, and services to improve user performance and user experience. What if the best way to do that is to provide false information? Is that ethical?

As behavioural sciences are unearthing the complex cognitive framework in which people make decisions, policymakers seem increasingly ready to design behaviourally-informed regulations to induce behaviour change in the interests of the individual and society…

a man running while exerting himself


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I have seen many cases where people choose a strategy that takes more time or more physical effort to save mental effort. This paper used a very simple task to test out the idea.

We asked university students to pick up either of two buckets, one to the left of an alley and one to the right, and to carry the selected bucket to the alley’s end. In most trials, one of the buckets was closer to the end point…

fast food restaurants

A Sadder Example of Priming

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I write about unconscious priming on a regular basis because I find it so fascinating (most recently here). Priming has the power to influence our behavior (and our users’ behavior) in so many ways that it can be an extremely versatile tool in our design arsenal. But it can also be a detriment…

an old photo of an A1 sauce billboard

The Power of Priming on Mental Models

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I have always been interested in the power of priming (see for example here and here. What fascinates me about it is that the primes don’t have to be related in any way to the behavior you want to evoke. So it is no surprise that companies try to leverage this in their marketing. This example is a great one…

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

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…

a pie chart with many segments

Considering Visual Perception for Better Data Visualization

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This is a good example of why we need to do more outreach in human factors. The author is a political scientist who makes charts and graphs on a regular basis for his presentations and research papers. He finds it to be a valuable use of his time to iteratively work on his visuals to maximize their effectiveness. My post on Islamism and Elections in Southeast Asia got some nice feedback, and I’m convinced that the simple graphics helped. I was surprised, though, at the…

a man and a woman holding a sign reading "energy wise" and a large CFL bulb

The Persuasive Power of Peer Pressure

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By coincidence, I read this article from Harvard Business Review and heard this interview from Steve Dubner on his book tour on the same day. Both focus on the persuasive power of peer data. This is an area I have been studying for many years (and full disclosure will hopefully have my own book out later this year) and it is incredibly powerful. It is also an example of one of my favorite phenomena – self-delusion and the mismatch between why we really do things…

work gloves

First Responder Gloves

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When choosing a work glove, there are several criteria that need to be considered to optimize the combination of performance and safety. Too often, a worker will remove a glove that degrades his or her touch sensitivity or fine motor control and get cut, burned, or electrocuted as a result. OSHA has a good guide for general considerations like thermal protection, touch sensitivity, tear and puncture resistance, and other criteria…

a rendering of an intersection showing striped crosswalks and sidewalks

Designing for Pedestrian Safety

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I am really curious what you think about this fundamental rethink of the pedestrian crossing. It was designed by an architectural firm in San Francisco where there is an average of 3 pedestrians hit by cars every day.

A firm called Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects is trying to reduce accidents by rethinking how people get from one side of the street to the other. The company … has come up with a network of pedestrian lanes and planters that blur the usual boundaries ­between walkers and drivers…