Ergonomics Of The Mind

Concept. 1. The application of neuroscience principles to consumer product design. 2. Design features a. adapted specifically to the brain and nervous system, and b. intended to optimize product appeal, enjoyment, and value (see, e.g., new car smell). 3. Emotional messaging features added to make products more expressive (e.g., more "lively") and fun to use.

Usage: Ergonomics of the mind means "user friendly to the brain." For the last 100,000 years, human beings have designed products so as to maximize their appeal to emotions, feelings, and moods. Today we form strong attachments to products which express themselves, show attitude, and emote personality (see, e.g., BIG MAC, BLUE JEANS, VEHICULAR STRIPE).

Familiarity. We prefer those products we have already seen, tasted, heard, felt, or smelled to those yet unexperienced. According to research by Robert Zajonc (1980): "If subjects are exposed to some novel visual patterns (like Chinese ideograms) and then asked to choose whether they prefer the previously exposed or new patterns, they reliably tend to prefer the preexposed ones. Mere exposure to stimuli is enough to create preferences" (quoted in LeDoux, 1996:53). Subliminal mere exposure works, too: "This led him [Robert Bornstein] to conclude that the mere exposure effect is much stronger when the stimuli are subliminally presented than when the stimuli are freely available for conscious inspection" (LeDoux, 1996:59).

Color. We like multi-hued products. Like our primate relatives, we have acute color vision and can recognize ca. 200 specific hues, from fiery reds to violet blues. (N.B.: The color green strongly attracts our attention, and is used in traffic lights, under the first and last steps of escalators, and in rented bowling shoes.)

Touch. We like products that feel smooth and soft to the touch. When a silk scarf, e.g., is drawn across our palm, the "soft" sensation is carried by free nerve endings, the oldest touch sensors found in vertebrate skin. Today, the soft or protopathic touch sensors found in hairless areas of our skin are partly responsible for our itching, tickling, and sexual sensations.


Copyright © 1998 - 2001 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)

Top illustration: A native American atlatl (spear-thrower) weight from Ohio, dated between 2600-2400 BC (Scarre 1993:101; copyright Dorling Kinderslee)



It was an effort to make the car look longer and lower. --Harley Earl (Patton 1992:185)

Product cue. 1. A horizontal pinstripe, painted by hand or by mechanical means, running the length of a motor vehicle just below the windows. 2. Any of several thin, linear markings a. of chrome stripping or vinyl, or b. stamped as embossments or indentations, running along the sides of an automobile or truck body.

Usage: Vehicular stripes decorate virtually all U.S. automobiles produced since 1927. Through an optical illusion, horizontal stripes suggest that cars are both "longer" and "lower" to the ground. Horizontal stripes also suggest greater "speed."

Evolution. The vehicular stripe originated as a messaging feature around the body (or "beltline") of the 1927 LaSalle. According to its inventor, Harley Earl, "This strip was placed there to eat up the overpowering vertical expanse of that tall car" (Patton 1992:185).

RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. "Earl dictated that a single highlight should run the length of the car, like a theme or plot" (Patton 1992:185). 2. Originally, "These encircling lines were painted by hand instead of by mechanical means because a rule line is a 'dead' line, and a perfect, rule line lacked the insouciant raciness a hand drawn line gives a finished automobile" (Patton 1992:185).

Neuro-notes. We are highly stimulated by edges, lines and linear details (perhaps from a primate fascination with branches and trees). Just as the linear necktie (see NECKWEAR) creates an illusion of greater verticality and physically imposing height (see HIGH-STAND DISPLAY), the automobile pinstripe creates an illusory vision of length and "speed." This is because one layer of our primary visual cortex contains specialized orientation-selective neurons, which respond only to vertical or horizontal lines, or to linear angles between the two.


Copyright 1999, 2000 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)

100 Bowling Tips

100 Bowling Tips

Playing bowling with your friends can help you decide if it is indeed the hobby that you want to invest your time on today. Aside from that, it can help you get a better feel of the sport. More importantly, when you play with your friends, it would become a more fun activity, which you can look forward to each week.

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