Cognitive Friction

This entry is part 12 of 43 in the series Words

The Whorf-Sapir hypothesis says that our language shapes how we think. It’s been moderately debunked in recent decades, but it’s likely true, at least in small part. And one of those small parts is when someone coins a new word that encapsulates a new idea. There has been a debate within philosophy since Plato’s time about whether words (names) – such as “circle” – correspond with some sort of actual ideal thing in some abstract realm – such as the one ideal circle of which our best drawn circles are only a pale imitation. Plato said yes, establishing the philosophical school known as Realism: “real” in this case means that there really, truly is an ideal circle somewhere out there. Nominalism says no, that “circle” is just a name, but Conceptualism, thanks to Peter Abelard, says that “circle” refers to something real, but that what’s real is about “circle” is that it’s a concept held in our brains. (If you’re a philosopher, I apologize for the gross oversimplification; but I’m a scientist, and as Bacon said: We are more likely to reach the truth through error than confusion.) And coining a new phrase can do just that – create new concepts in our brains. And that can change how we think about things.

And  if all those corporate executives who are responsible for our medical software were to get one particular concept into their brains, all of us in the medical field would find our lives a lot easier and error-free.

Cognitive friction is that term, coined by Alan Cooper in The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity.

Preattentive Attributes from Few

Preattentive Attributes from Few

More Preattentive Attributes from Few

More Preattentive Attributes from Few

finding the numbers can be hard

finding the numbers can be hard

Triadic Colors

Triadic Colors

  1. Limit the Choices:If a screen has 50 different clickable links or buttons to choose from, redesign to hide most of them behind a top-level choice.

There are other rules for good design – some of which are covered in other posts on this website – but the six rules above are the major ones apparent to me, at least at this particular instant. If you’d vote for another principle to be given such high-level status, please post a comment.

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This entry was posted by kconover on Friday, October 28th, 2011 at 6:20 pm and is filed under Tutorials . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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