Article: Herbert, W. (2011). “Deadline Pressure Distorts Our Sense of Time.” scientificamerican.com. Visited on October 9th, 2012: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=looming-deadlines Summary: The perceived difficulty and deadline pressure associated with a task alters our perception of time. In an initial study, subject were presented with a series of tasks of varying difficulty and asked how far away the day of completion felt to them. The tasks that were more complex and work intensive were perceived as being further in the future. To arrive at this result our brains are translating effort into time, assuming that the more difficult tasks must be further away since they will require more work to complete. An opposite effect is encountered when deadlines are associated with the tasks. If subjects are presented with either an easy or difficult task that they must complete by a set date in the future, those with the more complex and effortful task report that the date feels much closer to them than those with the simple task. This effect may sometimes cause us to feel overwhelmed as multiple complex tasks pile up on us, but our skewed perception of time also ensures that we typically complete necessary tasks within the actual amount of time…
Over the years, my students write blog entrees as part of their classwork. These contributing blogs tend to review articles with an eye for product design recommendations.
Cognitive Blindness, Contributor, Errors
Define your terms: What is sex?
by Natesh Daniel •
The article, “Sex Makes You Smarter — Can ‘Virtual Sex’ Do The Same?” was a great example of either knowing your audience too well or over-using jargon. The most prevalent problem in it was the lack of defined terms. The author assumed that the reader knew terms like: neurogenesis, glucocorticoid levels, and dendritic architecture (a case of cognitive blindness). But the biggest failure was the author’s negligence to define the most basic term about which the article was written: sex. What is sex? Who is having it? How are they having it? These questions were unanswered. The research on which the article was based indicated that male rats were the subject of the study and were “exposed” to sexually-receptive female rats. That was it. That was the only definition of sex in the entire article, and it was a very vague definition, especially if one extrapolated it to the realm of human sex, which is known to be complicated and varied. Is the author talking about the sexual gratification of males only? If sex was a form of exercise, as the author explained it was, how much caloric effort should the male engage in to achieve it or what heart rate should…
Contributor, Cultural Bias, Errors, Product Design Strategy, Users
We Are 80% Optimistic
by Micah Johnson •
Gallagher, James, (2011). “Brain ‘rejects negative thoughts’.” BBC.co.uk. Visited on October 8, 2012: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15214080 This article, “Brain ‘rejects negative thoughts’”, speaks of a generalized view of the brain based on evidence gathered from a wide population. Optimists, or those whose frontal lobes process good news and comparatively ignore bad news, make up about 80% of the population; while the remaining 20%, the pessimists, have a similar predisposition to bad news. Since optimists do not absorb bad news, risks are often underestimated; as a population, it can be generalized to say that the people respond more to good news than to bad. Conceptual Design: If risks are to be acknowledged and people’s views changed to reflect them, information regarding them should be emphasized. Information with positive effect will be more attractive, and need not be emphasized for message to be processed. Knowledge of this could be particularly useful in government. Knowing this, in sales, information may be designed which downplays risks, and emphasizes positive attributes, for maximum acceptance of the product in a general population. Furthermore, a population whose predilection is to pessimism could be acknowledged with information products designed specifically for them. Interaction Design: Elements of the product may be…
Conceptual Design, Contributor, Ethnographic & User Data, Product Design Strategy, Users
Who Controls Social Networks?
by jpcochran •
Article: Bohannon, J. (2012). “Who Controls Social Networks?” sciencemag.org. Visited on Oct 9, 2012:http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/06/who-controls-social-networks.html This article is about how ideas spread in social groups through peer influence. A theory long debated is that a small number of people who are influencers spread ideas through their peer groups. Critics of the theory argue that is it not how much influence these people have but how susceptible to the new idea people are. The study of peer influence has proven difficult to conduct, but the rise of social networks such as Facebook provide a means for researchers to study a large number of people. One study in the article found that on Facebook there was a clear divide between influencers and those that were susceptible to new ideas. Conceptually, it’s important for any product developer to understand who their product’s influencers are if they wish their product to spread through peer influence. The article suggests that the personality traits of people affect influence. Examples: Women influence men more than women. People over 30 were more influential than those under 30. The article states that the most important finding is that Influencers and those who are susceptible are not traits found within the…
Conceptual Design, Contributor, Interaction Design, Interface Design, Users
RE: Go Figure: Why we think rituals can influence results
by Daniel Hooks •
Article: Blastland, M. (2011). “Go Figure: Why we think rituals can influence results.” bbc.co.uk. Visited on October 9th, 2012: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14917871 Summary: Humans have a strong capacity for pattern recognition. This is beneficial in many circumstances, aiding in our survival and helping us safely navigate our environment. However, the same cognitive mechanisms can also cause us to make incorrect associations between cause and effect. One example is a sports fan believing that a ritual like wearing “lucky” socks during an event will increase the chances of success for their favorite team. In statistics this over-interpretation of random events and correlations is known as a Type I error. The same type of behavior can be seen in animal studies, where pigeons will repeat an action that they have incorrectly assumed is the cause of food being delivered to them, when the timing was actually random. Conceptual Design: When designing a new product are we utilizing our users’ strength for pattern recognition? Often humans can tease complex patterns from noisy data far more effectively than computers. Can users effectively see the link between using our product and having the positive outcomes that they desire? If our product has benefits, we would definitely like our users…
Conceptual Design, Contributor, Interaction Design, Interface Design, Product Design Strategy, Scaffolding
Separate Mobile Website Vs. Responsive Website
by jpcochran •
Frost, B. (2012). “Separate Mobile Website Vs. Responsive Website.” smashingmagazine.com. Visited on October 25, 2012: http://mobile.smashingmagazine.com/2012/08/22/separate-mobile-responsive-website-presidential-smackdown/ This article is about how to address the challenges of the mobile web by either creating a separate mobile website or creating a website that is responsive to different screen sizes. These two approaches are illustrated by the websites of the 2012 presidential candidates: Mitt Romney’s campaign has created a dedicated mobile website, while Barack Obama’s campaign has created a responsive website. The article looks at two use cases for these sites (someone looking for information and someone looking to take action) and how each of the different mobile approaches addresses them. Conceptual Design The article examines two mobile design approaches using Kristofer Layon’s model, which is based on Maslow’s hierarch of needs pyramid. Primary access and navigation are the most essential aspects of the mobile experience while enhancements like HTML 5 features are the least essential. How each method addresses the two mobile approaches is important for any product designer. Interaction Design Access to website content is the most import function of a mobile site. The Obama site is responsive, so all the content of the full-featured site is available to a mobile…
Contributor, Ethnographic & User Data, Interaction Design, Interface Design, Product Design Strategy, Scaffolding, Users
RE: Perfectionism May Not Be Optimum
by Micah Johnson •
Tugend, A., (2011). “It’s Just Fine to Make Mistakes.” NYTimes.com. Visited on October 8, 2012: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/12/your-money/12shortcuts.html Experiment: A study was conducted comparing the productive abilities of participants testing high and low in “perfectionism”. The task was to rephrase a passage without interpretation for a panel of judges who were unaware of the status of the participants. The Outcome: Those rating high in perfectionism were judged to have passages “significantly poorer in quality”. This surprising finding can be attributed to a shortened process of learning in perfectionists, due to fear of failure and the loss of respect should a mistake be found. This isolation from feedback inhibits development. Additionally, the stress of perfectionism can be psychologically detrimental, further inhibiting learning especially in the face of failure. Interaction Design: For products with a high learning curve, built-in feedback could be considered when the product is not used as designed, and alternately when ideal conditions of usage are met. This would perhaps encourage experimentation and calibrate use. Interface Design: Friendly tone or customizable interface might also help to attract continued use. This could give perfectionists and non-perfectionists a positive working arena.