Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lab 4 - Part III - Perception and Attention

Visual Perception

The figure-ground exercise is a good one to remind us that what we see is often only part of what is in front of us. I like these kind of puzzles, but I have found that some keep my eye moving and looking for more, while others lose my interest quickly. The more cluttered or 'busy' the image, the more quickly I will lose interest. Where's Wally is exhausting for me, but I can sit for ages looking at Bev Doolittle's work.
On a more general application level, I see some important design considerations coming out of these images.
- The mind does it's best to make sense of what is seen. If the sense is not evident, the message is lost because the viewer moves on due to frustration or boredom.
- Image context is important. Cluttered and crowded images leave the user searching for focus. While this can be a useful tactic in design, it can easily go wrong.
- Light, colour, and line are very influential. The closure examples point this out and many of the images in the final link drive it home.
- Depending on how detail-focused or meaning-focused a person is, these closure images can be trivial or confusing. I have seen variations of the second and third closure examples used in cognitive assessment tools for children, and the word shapes are used in some teaching methods to help children who have difficulty learning to read.

Visual Memory 

The Pattern Memory activity was relatively easy for me until round 8 or so. The first time I played, I made it to level 11 before making a mistake, and the second, I made it past level 13. Using grouping and shape-making to remember the patterns helps but becomes more difficult as the board grows and the groups get more spread out. As a designer, this exercise emphasises the power of visual placement in helping users associate or distinguish things.

Attention and Working Memory

I have seen the basketball gorilla video before, so it didn't have the wow effect that it does for first-timers. It is known to those who study attention and thinking that people are not able to take in and process all of the information available in their environment. We selectively attend to those things that we see as important first, and any other details get taken in by chance. Again, this relates to design an Wikipedia has a nice summary of attention related design considerations.
Some key principles from the article:
Information access cost relates to lost time or effort in locating information. Proximity compatibility can help reduce information access cost by use of literal proximity or more figurative methods like common colours, patterns, or shapes. Predictive aiding is designing to facilitate users completing actions, and the principle of consistency (using familiar display formats, arrangements, etc.) can help users to find the information they need in an unfamiliar environment.

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