April 13th, 2014
In cognitive design we spend a lot of time trying to understand what people are really thinking and feeling. We need to understand their mental models, cognitive biases and emotional states so that we can design products and services that meet deeply felt psychological needs. So I am always on the lookout for new scientific insights into how to read others peoples’ minds.
For example, the new book, Mindwise How we Decide What Others Think, Feel and Want, challenges some commonly held assumptions. More specifically, the author argues that popular techniques of reading gestures or body language and trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes (imagine their situation) are not useful. Indeed, he argues that we are wildly over confident in our belief that we can know what other people are thinking and feeling.
While the book does not present an alternative for effective reading other minds, it will help you avoid some common pitfalls and provides justification for using the more scientific approaches (e.g. metaphor elicitation and protocol analysis) that we write about in the Cognitive Design Blog.
April 1st, 2014
Let’s turn our corporate training/development efforts and university classrooms into learning communities that create structured content and computable knowledge with immediate economic and social value.
THE UNLIMITED HUMAN POTENTIAL CHALLENGE
March 27th, 2014
Imagine combining brain-computer interface technology, transcranial direct current stimulation, emotion sensors, eye tracking. other physiological sensors and augmented reality gear with interactive game play. What a brew for cognitive designers! Well that’s what you will get at the NeuroGaming conference and expo, May 7 -8 in San Francisco at the Metreon.
Using brain signals to control game play opens up many possibilities beyond entertainment. There are specific panels at the conference that will explore how neurogaming can accelerate wellness, learning and other cognitive functions.
Best of all you can go hands-on in the expo and experience:
* A brain controlled light and sound show
* Throwing trucks with your mind
* The latest brain wave reading headsets and devices
* Virtual reality and full immersion environments
* Haptic, motion and gesture control
* Neurocmodulators that electrically change brain states.
You will see both medical and consumer grade applications.
There is even a two day hackathon the weekend before the conference where you can design, build and show off your own neurogaming concepts.
I hope readers that attend will share their insights here on the Cognitive Design Blog.
March 10th, 2014
So we all know that first impressions are created quickly and can be very hard or even possible to reverse. Most of the natural logic we use to form first impressions is unconscious and automatic. It can lead to some bad outcomes and may even sit at the center of our long-standing failure to make hiring and employee evaluation decisions well.
Given its importance in organizational decision-making and interaction, the natural logic of first-impressions is of concern to cognitive designers. That’s why I am always on the look-out for new scientific studies that offer actionable insights for innovators.
For example, several studies presented at the annual conference for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology offer insight into the natural logic of how we form first impressions using descriptive versus visual information, when searching for a romantic partner and through on-line or otherwise passive means. The results are summarized nicely in the blog post even facts will not change first impressions.
Of special interest is the study that compares the natural logic of how we form first-impressions in person versus more passively by watching a person, reviewing Facebook photos or watching a video tape. The researchers found:
“In all cases, the passive means of making impressions were as accurate as the active ones. “However, there is an extremely large difference in the positivity of impressions,” he says “More passive impressions are substantially more negative.”
Bottom line for designers: First impressions made passively (virtually) have a strong negative bias.
Perhaps we have an inherent and deep distrust of things we don’t experience first hand.
February 23rd, 2014
In one of my cognitive design workshops I have participants work with commercially available brain-computer interfaces and try to move an object on the computer screen with their mind. This frustrates most participants but for the 25% that can do it well it is a transformational experience. By relaxing or giving a thought command (e.g. “go up”), a mental state is translated into an action of the computer screen. Through trial and error they learn to adjust their mental states to get the desired outcome on the computer screen. For the first time a multi-media representation of an internal thought or feeling is used as a feedback signal to drive learning.
This simple exercise (when it works) demonstrates how the latest brain science can revolutionize our approach to learning, decision-making, creativity and other cognitive and mental performances.
This is basic neurofeedback but until you do it you lack the direct experience that is so valuable for excellence in design and innovation work.
Neurofeeback is not the only experience a cognitive designer needs. Others include plasticity, mirror neurons, cognitive illusions, magnetic stimulation, electrical stimulation (e.g. transcranial electric stimulation) and other forms of neuromodulation that are informed by the latest brain science. For readable review of some of the recent research check out Education and Neuroscience: An Expert Review on the ThInk blog.
While the promise that neuroscience holds for improving education and all brain-intense human activities is tremendous, progress has been slow and is likely to remain so. As one of the researchers points out:
“Realistically, on current trends, future development is likely to be slow, especially given the ethical and safety concerns”
One way to speed things up is to make creative use of approaches that have already proven to be safe and effective. That is why I spend my time creating experiences for designers and innovators. With simple brain computer interfaces, neuromodulators and magic kits we can already disclose new worlds.
Once seen there is no going back. Learning to move a cursor (or any object) with your mind is a gateway experience for would-be cognitive designers. How many design and innovation courses or programs offer that?
February 12th, 2014
Massive open online classes (MOOCs) burst onto the education scene over the last few years. Millions of people have taken them with some classes hitting initial enrollments of 100,000 plus! The New York Times dubbed 2012 the Year of the MOOC and the likes of Stanford, Harvard, MIT and Northwestern are MOOCing their educational content and learning experiences.
Studying the effectiveness of MOOCs is a hot topic and definitely relevant for cognitive designers. So I am always on the lookout for scientific quality studies with design implications. For example, a series of working papers has been released on several of the MOOCs run on edX. These MITx working papers include a summary of the experience and papers on individual MOOCs ranging from solid state chemistry to fighting global poverty.
A few of the findings hint at non-traditional learning phenomenon. For example, not surprising completion rates are very low but there is some evidence that those that drop out still engage with the materials during/after the course. This signals big interest in getting access to world-class content but less interest in engaging in structured learning. On average, 50% of the students are leaving within two weeks of enrolling. Further supporting this hypothesis.
Interested to hear from readers that are evaluating MOOCs and considering how we can use them to support and enhance the cognition of learning.
January 24th, 2014
Practicing by learning from experience is important in sports and many types of knowledge work. Deliberate practice that involves dynamically adjusting the difficulty of the practice task, is often touted as the best way to rapidly move up the learning curve from novice to expert. One reason video games are so engaging is that they use levels, restarts and automatic dynamic difficulty adjustment to keep you at the edge of psychological flow and in deliberate practice mode.
Understanding the cognition of learning is fundamental to good game design and vice versa. For example, recent research reported in Psychological Science reveals that players of the game Axon where able to improve their performance quicker by engaging in specific learning strategies.
The more effective learning strategies included previewing (exploring how the game worked) and spacing out their practice session. These are two strategies that you can easily build into other types of facilitated or self-directed study materials or learning processes. For example, the static chapter previews offered in traditional textbooks might be far more effective if there were hyper-linked.
Studying people as they play video games or massive online multi-player games offers a new view into the cognition of learning compared to what we have learned from the lab or field. As the authors point out:
“This kind of data affords us to look in an unprecedented way at the shape of the learning curve, allowing us to explore how the way we practice helps or hinders learning,”
This is especially important for cognitive designers as games are one context where learning is pleasurable and participants are blissfully productive sometimes to extreme levels.
January 12th, 2014
My free provocative ideas online webinar, use micro-learning techniques to change behaviors and improve performance is scheduled to run January 15 at 1pm ET. I will talk about how knowledge cards can be used to structure a rapid and low-cost approach to creating social mobile content that changes behavior.
According to the host, Training Magazine, there are currently 684+ registered attendees. If you cannot make it, I will be moderating a discussion forum that will run after the webinar. It will include a recorded version of the event, additional background materials and an opportunity to share application ideas and even draft knowledge cards. You need to register to participate but it is free.
Hope you can join me in the event and participate in the discussion forum.
January 5th, 2014
There is no doubt that stories have a big impact on how we think-and-feel. They influence attention, memory, motivation, learning, decision-making, creativity and a host of other mental activities. Some say, a specific story has even change their life. How stories work their psychological magic is of central concern to cognitive designers so I am always on the look out for new scientific studies that offer insights.
For example, recent research from the Center for Neuropolicy at Emory University suggests that stories not only impact our psychology they may have lasting impact on the activation and wiring of our brains. The researchers asked 21 undergraduates to read Robert Harris’s novel Pomepii and found that neural changes persisted in their brains for five days.
One interesting finding:
“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,”
Persistent changes in biology signal just how powerful the effects of story are.
Interested to hear from readers about stories that have changed their lives / brains.
December 31st, 2013
Compassion typically involves the recognition of someone else’s suffering on both an intellectual and emotional level and a real attempt to address or alleviate it. Acts of compassion are widespread ranging from one friend consoling another about a loss, or an oncologist coaching a cancer patient to a relief organization striving to help an entire community struck by a natural disaster.
Compassion is about helping others in an emotionally connected way. We expect compassion to happen naturally but sometimes it is difficult to make the emotional connection and keep your balance especially if you are exposed to intense suffering on a regular basis. Think about about acute healthcare for example. On the other hand, acts of compassion can naturally generate tremendous energy for positive transformational change. Consider the success of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers for example.
Understanding the psychology of compassion can be useful in many cognitive design challenges so I am always on the lookout for scientific studies with practical insights. Take for example, the recent research by the University of Rochester Medical Center, What Does Compassion Sound Like? They completed a study of how doctors talk with patients in a compassionate way looking for language use and behaviors that defines the experience. The researchers looked at tone of voice, humor, non-verbals, pauses, sights and a wide-range of other factors. Their general conclusion is important:
“It became apparent that compassion is not a quality of a single utterance but rather is made up of presence and engagement that suffuses an entire conversation,”
The implications for designers or anyone seeking to improve compassion-driven experiences is clear. Compassion frames the entire experience and unfolds during the course of the interaction.