Perceptual Blindness

Perceptual Blindness is a failure to notice a fully-visible, but unexpected object because attention was engaged on another task, event, or object.

Attention Control Errors & Perceptual Blindness

Harvard Vision Lab created a few experiments that feature Attention Controls Errors and Perceptual Blindness. Below is one of their optical illusions. Directions: concentrate on the central white dot. Did the colors of the outside dots continue to shift throughout the video? If they stopped when the dots were rotating, then you’ve just experienced Silencing—the lab’s vocabulary for individual’s inability to pay attention to both motion and color shift at the same time. Here, we mostly call it Perceptual Blindness. My Personal Experience with this Illusion: The first time I watched the video, I think the colors stopped shifting…but I don’t really remember—I wasn’t paying attention! The second time, I saw the shift. When I showed the illusion to a colorblind individual, he saw the shift from the first viewing. To read about the complete experiment and to view more illusion videos, please visit the lab:

Perceptual Illusions

Our minds play tricks on us all the time. Once the information has entered our cognition via our senses, it still has to get processed to be understood. Like any other data, it’s all about context. For interesting examples of optical illusions, please visit R. Beau Lotto has put together a few interesting examples of mis-processing! Or watch him deliver a talk at TED.

The History of Usability

NASA Space Shuttle SR-71 Blackbird U2 Cockpit Designs

When did we start being concerned with usability? Some will say that such concern is part of being human: cavemen worked their stone tools to get them just right. Interaction design mattered even then. But the field of usability research really came into being when the tools we used started to run up against our cognitive and physical limitations. And to avoid hitting literal, as well as psychological, walls, it was the aviation engineers who started to think about usability seriously. While cars were becoming ever more sophisticated and trains ever faster, it was the airplanes that were the cause of most usability problems around WWI. Cars were big, but didn’t go very fast or had a lot of roads to travel on at the turn of the century. In the first decade of the 20th century, there were only 8,000 cars total in the U.S. traveling on 10 miles of paved roads. In 1900, there were only 96 deaths caused by the automobile accidents. Planes were more problematic. For one thing, the missing roads weren’t a problem. And a plane falling out of the sky in an urban area caused far more damage than a car ever could. Planes…

Perception & Context

It’s All About Context When it comes to real-estate, it’s location, location, location. When it comes to design, it’s context, context, context. Consider the following scenario: you are going shopping at Good Will. You see a brand new coffee maker for $10. “Oh My God,” you say, “that’s incredibly expensive!” You don’t buy it. You go to Starbucks and see the exact same coffee maker on sale for $120. You get it—how can you pass up such a bargain? In a different setting, the perception of price of the coffee maker resolves as cheap even as the actual price is higher. Why? Why do we care about the context in which the product is sold as opposed to some other intrinsic characteristic? There are people who buy empty Tiffany’s blue boxes and cases. Why? So they can place jewelry and other gift items in there. The mere fact of being inside a blue box makes those object more valuable—they work harder. Again, the perceived value it’s not just in the intrinsic characteristic of an object in a box, but rather in the combination of the two: the product and its context. If a gift-giver tells you that the present you’re…