Attention

Temptation and Strategy

By now, everyone who reads this blog probably heard of the “Marshmallow Temptation Test”. The test is designed to check a kid’s ability to resist eating one marshmallow right away if told that he/she could have two in a little while. There is a strong correlation between those who can wait and avoid the temptation of eating the single marshmallow, and the those who grow up to be more successful (than the kids who give into temptation and eat the one marshmallow). The basic setup is simple. Place a kid in a room with a single marshmallow on the plate and tell the kids that in just a little while, the researcher will be back with the second marshmallow which the kids can have ONLY if the first one is still on the plate! Enjoy the video! Note: this is about attention controls; about developing coping strategies early on to postpone rewards; about controlling for impulsive behavior.

Multitasking Myth

I’ve been noticing a lot of praise and demand for mutlitaskers: “We are looking for a talented individual who is [insert a laundry list of qualifications here] and is also a great multitasker!” or “Women are naturally better at multitasking.” or “Not only is he gifted, but he is able to work on all these projects simultaneously. If only we had a dozen more just like him!” (—probably just to get anything done!) The interesting aspect of this increased demand for multitasking is the rise of ADHD diagnosis. So I thought it would be an interesting exercise to pin down what exactly is being praised and diagnosed. A Curious Case of ADHD Let’s start with formal diagnostic criteria for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). What are the symptoms of ADHD? Below is a list of attributes that is adapted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th ed. (DSM-IV). When you read this list the first time, imagine an eight year old boy trapped in an elementary classroom. On the second reading, consider an 80-year-old woman in a nursing home. On the third, visualize a soldier just back from Afghanistan. And finally, when you read the list for…

Toilet Games

If you have small children…boys, you are undoubtably familiar with things like: “My Wee Friend”; “Piddlers Toilet Targets for Potty Training”; “Potty Training Targets – Look like real targets!”; “Tinkle Targets for Boys”; “Wee Wee Pals”; or “On Target Infant Toilet Training Balls” from Amazon. Problem: boys have to learn to aim; boys attention span is shorter than the time it takes to empty their bladder; Solution: make going to the bathroom fun; design an activity that extends the attention and improves aim; The conceptual design is pretty straightforward: align the goals of the parents (teaching bathroom skills) with the goals of a toddler (have fun) to improve the toilet experience for all concern–basic goal alignment! Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t seem to go away as these boys grow up. Product design to the rescue! The Urinal Lips design uses the same product design strategy: make aiming fun! What sign on the walls of the bar’s men’s room couldn’t achieve, a playful design did–these men’s room stay clean. One Step Farther… While attention controls might lag during a long bathroom break, video games seem to have a tighter control over attention. So welcome to the future of urinals: These are the…

Re “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits”

Carey, B. (2010). “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits.” New York Times Online. Retrieved on 26 October, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/07/health/views/07mind.html The main topic of this article is to dispel a few beliefs about effective study habits. According to this article, research has clearly demonstrated that we don’t have credible evidence for the utility of popular learning-style approaches that we follow. The article also outlines a few simple techniques that can reliably improve how much we learn from studying. Personally, I wish I read this article when I was a full time student as it might have helped me to be a better learner. Conceptual Design: With each of us having specific learning styles, a designer for a learning product can build a system that adopts to our learning styles. For example a system can test its users and determine their learning style and focus on a approach that might make the user learn faster and better. If the learning is tough, learners (Students) might lose interest and motivation. So effective approaches of learning such as variability in setting and materials must be used to improve learnability and retention.  Such design approaches would make learning easy and engage the users…

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 http://www.lottolab.org/articles/illusionsoflight.asp. R. Beau Lotto has put together a few interesting examples of mis-processing! Or watch him deliver a talk at TED.

On “Legendary Magazine Covers Get Their Own Spread”

CNN staff. (2008). “Legendary magazine covers get their own spread.” CNN. Retrieved on April 27, 2008. http://edition.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/books/04/25/esquire.coverart.ap/index.html CNN publishes a eulogy of George Lois as his work for the Esquire magazine is going to be exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Reviewing some of the magazine covers, the journalist highlights what made the designer’s shots iconic. In this respect, two main arguments come up. First, the journalist lays an emphasis on the power of the images. Describing Muhammad Ali posing as Saint Sebastian, he shows to what degree it stroke people’s memory. In fact, in Lois’ point of view, the photograph has to make a powerful statement to push the viewer to look at the article inside. Not only did he succeed in doing that but he also stroke people’s memory to such an extent that they still remember where they first saw this cover at the time. His photographs gave polemical statements on political, cultural but also social issues and triggered heavy debate in the society. They became iconic through their simplicity of evocation and their ability to instill a tinge of provocation about contemporary issues. The Vietnam covers are telltale when it comes to affecting the…

A coffee can make you forget

BBC Staff. (2004). “A coffee can make you forget.” BBC NEWS. Retrieved July 1st, 2010: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3909085.stm SUMMARY: This article looks at the effects of caffeine found in coffee to the short-term memory. It proves that caffeine hinders ones ability to produce one-word answers but instead testers state that the answer is ‘on the tip of their tongues.’ To prove that caffeine does in fact affect ones short-term memory a study was conduction on two groups of 32 college students. One group was given 2oo mg of coffee, while the other was given a dummy drug. When the group with caffeine was asked to answer a question with a one-word answer they were less likely to answer correctly, while the ones without caffeine were successful. It was concluded from this study that caffeine does in fact keep one alert but unless a question is posed, pertaining to the users current train of thought it will be very difficult to produce a word. “It aids short-term memory when the information to be recalled is related to the current train of thought but hinders short-term memory when it is unrelated.” As a regular coffee drinker I found this article really interesting as I…