I have taught children, teens, and adults for many years. And I am noticing a trend — as a people, in the name of a more just society, we try to make our definitions ever more expansive. Sounds like great thing, right? But consider this. Decades ago, children diagnosed as autistic were few and their symptoms had to be severe to get this diagnosis. Now we have an autistic spectrum. More and more children and adults get placed on this spectrum. We seem to want to catch as many autistic individuals as we can by expanding the definition of what it means to be on the spectrum. We are being ever more expansive in the name of justice. But shouldn’t we be expanding the spectrum the other way instead? Perhaps it is better to be more inclusive in our definition of what it means to be on the “normal” spectrum. We are all different. We all have a grab bag or positives and negatives. And that’s a good thing. It takes all of our differences to create a great society. So we can treat ADHD kids as different from “normals” or we can think of them as us. Dividing children…
Diagnostic Errors result from focusing on details and failing to recognize a large pattern.
Background Knowledge, Book, Cultural Bias, Cultural Differences, Diagnostic Errors, Personality, Pipsqueak Articles, Product Design Strategy, Scaffolding
Us and Them
by Olga Werby •
Of Doctors, Babies, Kings, and Zombies Before starting my journey as science fiction writer, I got a few degrees under my belt — astrophysics, mathematics, cognitive science, education, etc. It took a few decades (I’ve gotten married and had a family in there somewhere), but I got my doctorate and have used and still use it to help people think through complicated problems, mostly in product design. How is this relevant to writing, you might ask? Well, in addition to witnessing and surviving some amazing situations — always a good experience for a writer — I’ve acquired a few tools on how to think about situations and people. I would like to share one such tool with you: Us versus Them, a cognitive perspective. What people (and other animals) are very good at is dividing themselves into Us’es and Them’s. It’s a useful tool when we live in a divided world — how else do we keep clear of our allegiances to countries, sports teams, and political parties? But these divisions have neurological and psychological underpinnings. Consider a four square graph that charts competency versus likability (emotional warmth and approachability): We perceive (our) doctors as warm, personable, and able. We…
Anchoring Errors, Background Knowledge, Background Knowledge Errors, Causal Net Problems, Cultural Bias, Diagnostic Errors, Group Decision Errors, Mental Model Traps, Metaphor Mistakes, Misapplication of Problem Solving Strategies, Pipsqueak Articles
Alternative Facts in Medicine
by Olga Werby •
While we are collectively freaking out over the Trump’s White House use of Alternative Facts, these kinds of “facts” have been floating around in medicine (and politics) for a long time. And it is instructive to take a look at how we as a society have been dealing with Alternative Facts in Medicine and what damage these “facts” have wrought on us individually and collectively. I propose the following formula for how Alternative Facts come to be: Desperate Need + Greed = Alternative Fact Medical Myths: Beliefs Based on Outdated Science To start, allow me to refresh your memory, for our history is full of myths when it comes to our heath and our diseases. Let’s begin with a bit of bloodletting. Bloodletting is almost as old as our civilization. Thousands of years ago (that’s thousands, with three zeros!), a healer’s first choice of treatment was to let out the “excess” blood from a patient. Be it a migraine, an infection, or a virus, a person who was probably too sick to object was cut with a lancet or some other easily available tool and weakened even further via blood loss. The Greek physician Erasistratus believed all illnesses were due…
Background Knowledge, Cultural Bias, Cultural Differences, Diagnostic Errors, Ethnographic & User Data
Cultural Differences in Child-rearing or Abuse?
by Olga Werby •
I’ve written about cultural differences in child-rearing that from our, Western, point of view seem like child abuse. There’s the dunking of babies into freezing ice waters in Russia; and spinning children to improve something; and now I just saw these videos from India. and There is no question that if these were video-documented instances of child abuse in New York or Los Angeles, authorities would be knocking down doors to rescue these children. But in other cultures, is it different? Do we bear responsibility there?
Cognitive Blindness, Cultural Differences, Diagnostic Errors, Product Design Strategy, Uncategorized, Users
“Thanks for choosing Apple”…not!
by Olga Werby •
This last month, we had a bizarre customer service experience with Apple iTunes. It started on September 13th with a simple purchase that wasn’t fulfilled. It ended with us angry and frustrated for no reason. Apple was having a one-day promotion where they were selling movie bundles of 10 movies for $10 each. My husband couldn’t resist and purchased three of the six bundles on Apple TV. But the movies didn’t show up in our list of purchased movies. It’s not the first time we’ve bought movies; our credit card was up-to-date. Something technical had just gone wrong. So the next day, my husband submitted a customer service request with Apple iTunes. The Apple Customer Service rep said that he could see that the purchases had been made and said that other customers were having the same problem getting their purchases. He said that he would resolve the issue. But then, another strangely hostile customer service rep took over. He recanted what the previous rep had said, implied that my husband was a liar and said that he could tell that we had never purchased anything, and effectively told us to go get bent. The customer service interaction with Apple…
Anchoring Errors, Background Knowledge, Background Knowledge Errors, Causal Net Problems, Cognitive Blindness, Conceptual Design, Cultural Bias, Cultural Differences, Diagnostic Errors, Errors, Interaction Design, Mental Model Traps, Metaphor Mistakes, Mirroring Errors, Misapplication of Problem Solving Strategies, Perceptual Blindness, Perceptual Focus Errors, Pipsqueak Articles, Reference, Scaffolding
Review eBook: Affordances and Design
by Olga Werby •
Victor Kaptelinin, a Professor at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen, Norway, and the Department of Informatics, Umeaa University, Sweden, just published an eBook with Interaction Design Foundation: “Affordances and Design.” I was asked to write a review of this book and provide some insights into using affordances in interaction design and HCI. Let me start by providing the definition of affordance as given by Donald Norman: In his eBook, Victor Kaptelinin provides the history of the idea of affordance from its initial introduction by James Gibson in 1977 to the present day. The eBook’s bibliography and reference section is a great place to start the exploration of this topic for anyone new to these ideas. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t help much if an individual is looking for some guidance on how to apply these ideas in practical situations during interaction design or HCI design. For clarity’s sake, allow me to give a very brief explanation of affordances, from their roots to the present time. When James Gibson first introduced the concept of affordances, he focused on physical environment — what actions are possible? And the set of these action were invariable — just because…
Background Knowledge, Conceptual Design, Cultural Differences, Diagnostic Errors
How Do You Know When Contractors are Lying to You?
by Olga Werby •
Do you sometimes get that sunken feeling that your contractors are flat out making up statistics about your users on the spot? I do get that a lot…but until just a few days ago, I didn’t have the indisputable evidence. Slide below is from a Russian contractor Power Point deck explaining the user demographic breakdown for different forms of payment awareness among the 18 to 45 year-olds. The logo of the company which made this slide is blurred… But for those of you who don’t speak Russian, let me walk you through the slide. Horizontal variables are: Knowledge of the type of payment and Usage. The columns are: Credit Card Payments; eMoney; Internet Banking; non-Internet Currency (aka cash); and payments via SMS. 79% of the population of Russian cities with population of over 800,000 people (really?) know about SMS payment systems and 22% use them. While only 93% heard of “offline” cash!