Sunday, March 04, 2007

Unlikely Cognitive Enhancers

According to neurological and psychological research referenced in Don Norman's Emotional Design, objects that make us happier are, in practice, easier to use (all other things equal). The explanation is that when we are happy, we are more creative and patient. Being creative and patient leads to reduced terminal errors and improved perception of usability. Fascinating, considering the usable aspect of the object need not be the only design variable contributing toward overall usability.

Thus, one is led to consider this: if we are happier, we're more creative and patient and things around us are easier to use and understand. Besides being motivation for living happily, I wonder if this also implies that mood enhancers are also forms of cognitive enhancers. I've seen recent news reporting that some very fascinating ability enhancing drugs which include reducing the needed amount of sleep and increasing cognitive abilities. A "smart pill," if you will.

I wonder how direct or indirectly these smart pills enhance cognitive abilities. Do they directly act on physiological, chemical, and electrical needs for cognition or do they do it more indirectly, for example, through mood enhancement? I love that no matter how you cut it, the human is a complex animal with a very "messy" cognitive system.

Throw UI to the Dogs

Assistance dogs are using ATMs! According to the article, the dogs can retrieve the card, cash, and receipt. Besides it being a neat trick, this reminds me that good designs can have surprising effects and benefits.

Although the design might not be especially good or intended for use by dogs, it's nice to know that at least the design doesn't make it impossible for dogs to use them. Of course, now that we know some dogs are retrieving things from ATMs for their owners, it would be a fun project to study the usage and find ways to make the ATMs more dog-friendly.

Now I just have to make sure the assistance dogs don't embarrass me by using the ATM next to me more accurately or faster than I do.

From the article: I thought this was Bark-lays bank