Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Learning Log #2: Helplessness

The idea of Helplessness makes me put myself in the consumer’s position rather than just the position of the designer. Norman points out how human intentions are to blame themselves if they are not able to perform a task on an object. It is interesting how Norman looks into this and realizes a connection between human misconception and design of everyday things.

I thought the whole idea of Aristotle’s theory of “Naïve Physics” (Norman, pg 36) is especially a notable theory to appreciate. Aristotle brought a common-sense way to thinking about physics than the traditional way of Newton’s laws. Aristotle said in order to create motion, something needs to constantly be moving it and in Newton’s law it says that there’s motion unless someone stops it. It makes more sense than Newton’s law.

The explanation of learned helplessness and taught helplessness was very intriguing. Learned helplessness is paralleled with depression, which I thought was interesting because depression in a sense is difficult to understand. When Norman brings these two terms together, he makes a viable argument because learned helplessness is not knowing how to do something numerous times, thus making the person helpless (Norman, pg 42). Taught helplessness is when you fail at something and feel embarrassed or inferior to that specific task. Norman gives the examples of learning mathematics. This happens to people everyday without even noticing from pushing a door the wrong way to putting an oil cap on, on an airplane.

The seven stages of action made me interested in the step-by-step process of how humans carry out their actions. There is, “one for goals, three for execution, and three for evaluation (Norman, pg 48)”. These steps apply to all situations. Ones that last for 10 seconds or ones that last for over a year, need to go through this process.

I liked reading this section because Norman in a sense puts blame on the designer and makes the reader realize that not being able to do something isn’t always their fault, but the design of an interface is to blame. He always lays out details of his findings through studying people.

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