Recently I watched the movie Memento and it brought back memories of HM. HM, a famous neuropsychological patient (full name not revealed to preserve his privacy) suffered from amnesia, whose case heralded a whole new slew of findings on human memory.
In early 1950’s HM was treated for epilepsy by having both his hippocampi (a small part of the brain, named for the fact that it is shaped like a sea-horse) removed. Something strange happened. From that point onwards HM was unable to make new memories. He froze in time. He knew who he was (so it was not a case of forgetting his past). He simply could not form any new memories from that day onwards. A few psychologists discovered his case and so started a momentous period in memory research.
The movie Memento shows a somewhat similar case, that of Shelby who is unable to form new memories. His way of dealing with it (amnesia) is to take pictures and write notes in order to remind himself of events and people.
A few decades ago, there was a rapid influx of new ideas from psychology into HCI. There was Don Norman, Stuart Card, Kent Norman and many others who brought in new ideas and theories which were adopted and prospered in the field. Since then there has been few new, signifcant ideas brought in from psychology into HCI. Moreover, much of the impact of psychology has been on evaluation, rather than on the design process.
Victor uses the example of a Chinese menu to describe how familiarity with the visual form of information helps people recognize the object. Original paper here. Its an interesting point, and I suspect the hands of “implicit memory” (a lesser known aspect of human memory). Let me explain.
For a long time, I have been fascinated by Zimbardo’s work. Not just the famous (or infamous) Prison Experiments, but his other work. A common thread running through his work is the concept of “situational control” or the idea that individual agency plays a lesser role, and the structure of the situation plays a greates role in determining human behavior. What does situational control mean for design and designers?
Read an article I just posted on Uzanto.com: Roller Coasters vs. Driver’s Seats: Design and the Concept of Situational Control
What does a snapshot of human cognitive architecture show- a sensory system allowing us to take in a lot of information from the world, a vast long-term memory store and a severely limited working memory store. The limited working memory store represents a bottleneck in human cognitive processing. Two recent studies published in Nature show that the brain area related to the capacity limitation of memory capacity has finally been located!
I am blogging again after a gap of almost two years. Its been busy, but I plan to make the time for blogging again. Have many unfinished articles and half-formed theories lying around…
And in case, you missed the news, I started a Customer Research Consulting company, Uzanto Consulting along with Jonathan Boutelle. Uzanto means “user” in Esperanto. (The name comes from a childhood fascination with Esperanto)