Scarcity is the idea that things become more desirable when we perceive them to be more difficult to obtain if they are in short supply or available intermittently. Scarcity is a reliable way to move people to action, as when ideas or opportunities become scarcer, then they also become more desirable, and even those people who are less interested may be motivated to take greater notice. Scarcity can act as an indicator of quality which works in conjunction with the human interest in keeping options open and also the drive to avoid loss (loss aversion). This principle acts across a wide range of behaviours from sexual selection to negotiation strategies. Read more »
Inattentional blindness is the failure to mentally process a stimulus that is in clear view, leaving the observer without any awareness of the stimulus. It is a psychological lack of attention that typically happens when other tasks demanding attention are being performed. Read more »
AEIOU is a frequently used framework for guiding and structuring observational research. The framework creates a taxonomy of observations under the themes of Activities, Environments, Interactions, Objects and Users and is commonly used for coding observational data. Read more »
Observation is a fundamental skill for designers and researchers, requiring focus on hearing and seeing human behaviour, environments, events, artifacts and social interactions. Observational methods are often described in terms of their degree of formality and the level of structure designed into the observations and recording methods, as well as their intended use. Read more »
Researchers can unobtrusively collect information using fly-on-the-wall observation, where there is no direct participation or interference with the people or behaviours that are being observed. This is a different approach to other types of observation (eg participant observation), intentionally avoiding direct involvement and therefore minimising the biases and influences that such involvement brings. However, the inability to connect with those observed or to probe behaviours and motivations can limit this approach.This makes such observation relatively less structured and more flexible than other approaches, although often guided by frameworks such as AEIOU which will be described in another article).
Designers and researchers can fall into one of two categories when conducting such observation according to John Seizel: secret outsiders or recognised outsiders. Secret outsiders are typically viewing out of sight of the view of participants and are ‘observing at a distance’. In this case, any influences are minimised but it can be difficult to pick up on nuances of interactions between participants and environment as well as social interactions. Recognised outsiders are made known to participants as is their role as an observer. However, they still make sure that they appear natural and unobtrusive in the environment.
Despite such efforts, it is well known that people change their behaviours when being observed . The ‘Hawthorne effect’ was famously discovered in a study of worker productivity in response to changes in lighting conditions. In the original study, productivity of workers increased whatever lighting or other changes were made in the environment, suggesting that change in itself had led to the increase, or the increase reflected the interest shown in the workers.
Observation methods should always reflect the situation and the research objectives. Fly-on-the-wall observation is appropriate for building understanding of public spaces and activities or work activities (where observation is likely to have minimal disruptive or influence effects). If there is a likelihood that people will alter their behaviour and verbal responses when an observer is present, then fly-on-the-wall may be the right observation approach.
Design ethnography, observation, participant observation and shadowing will be the subject of future articles in this series.
Universal Methods of Design by Bella Martin & Bruce Hanington (2012)
Inquiry by Design: Environmental, Behaviour.Neuroscience in Architecture, Interiors, Landscape and Planning by John Zeisel
Kano Analysis is used to determine which features of a product have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction, because not all features are equally important. The approach follows the philosophy that “more is better” is not always the best approach to maximising satisfaction, and that it can be more effective to prioritise those features which are most important to customers (or certain groups of customers). Read more »
Interference effects are the name given to the slowing of mental processing (with diminished accuracy) when there are competing mental processes. They occur when two or more perceptual or cognitive processes are in conflict, reflecting the multiple systems used by the brain to process information independently of one another. The outputs of these systems are communicated to working memory for interpretation when there are relevant goals. When they are congruent. interpretation is quick and performance is optimal, but when they are incongruent interference occurs and additional processing and time is needed to resolve the conflict, leading to a negative impact on performance. Read more »
Cognitive maps reveal people’s underlying decision making rules. They are a visual representation of how we make sense of a problem, issue or idea, revealing how we think about the problem and how we structure our ideas around it. Read more »
If you want to get to the heart of a customer’s relationship with a brand experience, asking them to write a personal letter can often reveal deep insights about what they value and expect from even the most everyday objects and interactions. Read more »
[This is an edited version of a talk for IAA Singapore and 4As on 26th September 2012]
Advertising can learn much from the latest understanding of the brain just as market research can (read more here). Although there is much to learn, here are three important lessons:
- relevant context
- emotional meaning
- repeat repeat repeat (but not in the way you might think) Read more »