Web interactions and the "old brain"

1 Aug 2008 - 2:37pm
6 years ago
8 replies
611 reads
Bryan J Busch
2006

I was at a conference once, (either SxSW or Adaptive Path's UX Week), and
someone was speaking about banner ads, and how we only see them in our
peripheral vision, which makes us nervous because our "old brain" knows that
shadows moving in the corner might well be a tiger, and we should be on
alert.

Does any of this sound familiar? I'm very interested in how psychology plays
a role in web design, but so far I haven't found any resources on the topic.
Is there anything you can recommend?

Comments

1 Aug 2008 - 3:09pm
Charlie Kreitzberg
2008

Hi Bryan:

There is a lot of psychology applied to design. This particular suggestion
seems a bit far-fetched. Tigers are a lot bigger, noisier and smell worse
than banner.

I do think that people become habituated to ads and tend to ignore them. And
if the ad is using animation and you see it in your peripheral vision, you
may well have a reflexive shift in you're the focus of your attention. This
is called the "orienting response" and may be what the speaker was referring
to.

The orienting response is extremely powerful. If something in the
environment shifts you immediately pay attention to it. (That's the tiger
part). It is truly a survival mechanism.

When an orienting response occurs, the blood vessels supplying muscles
dilate so that you can run or fight if needed. When you plunge someone's
hand into cold water, blood vessels would constrict to conserve heat -- just
the opposite. Now it gets interesting...

If you do both an orienting response (e.g. ring a bell) and plunge someone's
hand into cold water at the same time, the blood vessels dilate. This is a
more powerful response than being shocked by cold.

Here are a few implications for design:

1. Do not design or place important controls or information where they might
be seen as ads. They are likely to be ignored by some users and not
processed. Information boxes that appear in a banner position at top or on
the side ("skyscraper ads") are the most vulnerable.

2. Beware of animations that might distract from where you want the user to
focus. Initially, an animation will attract attention until the user
habituates to it.

3. Conversely, if you want to attract the user's attention either because
it's an ad or a problem requiring the user's attention, change something in
the user's visual field though animation, color change and possibly sound.
This will cause an orienting response and refocus the user's attention.

Charlie

============================
Charles B. Kreitzberg, Ph.D.
CEO, Cognetics Corporation
www.cognetics.com
============================

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Bryan J
Busch
Sent: Friday, August 01, 2008 3:37 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Web interactions and the "old brain"

I was at a conference once, (either SxSW or Adaptive Path's UX Week), and
someone was speaking about banner ads, and how we only see them in our
peripheral vision, which makes us nervous because our "old brain" knows that
shadows moving in the corner might well be a tiger, and we should be on
alert.

Does any of this sound familiar? I'm very interested in how psychology plays
a role in web design, but so far I haven't found any resources on the topic.
Is there anything you can recommend?
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2 Aug 2008 - 11:45am
Jay Morgan
2006

Hi Bryan,

re: seeing banner ads with your peripheral vision:
The human eye has different receptor cell types in the focal area than it
does on the places far from the focal area. the focal area is - you guessed
it - equipped with cells for precise observation. the parts of the retina
far from the focal area have cells that are better at 'blunt' perception.
detecting motion is one of those. the outer-retina cells detect motion in
the peripheri and the eye orients towards it so that the focal area is on
the moving object.
You can pick up a neuroscience textbook at HalfPrice books that'll have
chapters on the retina, which is considered part of the human brain because
it's neurons. Here's the neuroscience text I used:
http://www.amazon.com/Principles-Neural-Science-Eric-Kandel/dp/0838577016.
Or, you could just get a (probably much smaller) book on cognition that'll
tell you what you need to know in a nutshell about visual perception. I used
Matlin's textbook "Cognition".

re: the "old brain":
I've heard more than I ever wanted to about how under certain conditions
'humans revert to using their "lizard brain" when emergency strikes". Right,
when your child is drowning or your life is threatened you're going to use
reflexes and ingrained behaviors, but let's not mistake a flashing content
container for an attack by a potential predator. Also, the "lizard brain"
concept is going too far, too, since there is a lot of cortex around the
older parts of the brain and the brain distributes processing for the kinds
of tasks we use in UIs. In a nutshell, our behavior is driven by implicit
and explicit thoughts, but it's not likely to reach the point of someone
having a fight-or-flight response to a UI. Of course, the value of usability
testing is that you'd be able to record the exact moment when someone flees
the scene out of fear.
For a reverse perspective, though, it's good to see immersive virtual
reality being used to treat PTSD.

I hope this helps.

On Fri, Aug 1, 2008 at 2:37 PM, Bryan J Busch <bryanjbusch at gmail.com> wrote:

> I was at a conference once, (either SxSW or Adaptive Path's UX Week), and
> someone was speaking about banner ads, and how we only see them in our
> peripheral vision, which makes us nervous because our "old brain" knows
> that
> shadows moving in the corner might well be a tiger, and we should be on
> alert.
>
> Does any of this sound familiar? I'm very interested in how psychology
> plays
> a role in web design, but so far I haven't found any resources on the
> topic.
> Is there anything you can recommend?
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
Jay A. Morgan

Information Architecture & Scenario-based design.
Design Patterns & Mental Models.

3 Aug 2008 - 9:47am
Bob Dickson
2008

I must admit that I don't remember ever coming across the term "old
brain" in my studies. Perhaps it was active when I was being
lectured about it and I was too busy watching for tigers ;-)

In terms of stimuli that make us nervous, I don't think animated
banner ads count, otherwise net heads would be in a constant state of
anxiety until banners disappeared. The idea you mentioned is a little
simplistic and I'm not sure it's a part of proper psychology though
I could be wrong. Besides, organic systems habituate (ie, get used to
and then ignore) repetitive stimuli eventually unless they are
overwhelming (it's hard to sleep at a loud rave).

For responses to threat-inducing stimuli, you can read about the
sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems for a start. There is
lots of work about anxiety, PTSD and the like, but I know of nothing
covering anxiety disorders and banner ads.

Psychology has played an important role in this field. Many of the
first HCI researchers were cognitive psychologists. I think Alan Dix
wrote a paper about the history of HCI somewhere. It might be on his
website.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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4 Aug 2008 - 12:37pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Attention capture by sudden change in contrast and sudden movement is
described in 'Mind Hacks' by Tom Stafford and Matt Webb -- good book. It is
attributed to Superior colliculus (part of the "old brain", as opposed to
the "new brain", also known as "neocortex").

--
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is design of time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

On Sun, Aug 3, 2008 at 9:47 AM, Bob Dickson <bobdickson1969 at gmail.com>wrote:

> I must admit that I don't remember ever coming across the term "old
> brain" in my studies. Perhaps it was active when I was being
> lectured about it and I was too busy watching for tigers ;-)
>
> In terms of stimuli that make us nervous, I don't think animated
> banner ads count, otherwise net heads would be in a constant state of
> anxiety until banners disappeared. The idea you mentioned is a little
> simplistic and I'm not sure it's a part of proper psychology though
> I could be wrong. Besides, organic systems habituate (ie, get used to
> and then ignore) repetitive stimuli eventually unless they are
> overwhelming (it's hard to sleep at a loud rave).
>
> For responses to threat-inducing stimuli, you can read about the
> sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems for a start. There is
> lots of work about anxiety, PTSD and the like, but I know of nothing
> covering anxiety disorders and banner ads.
>
> Psychology has played an important role in this field. Many of the
> first HCI researchers were cognitive psychologists. I think Alan Dix
> wrote a paper about the history of HCI somewhere. It might be on his
> website.
>
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=31782
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

4 Aug 2008 - 2:35pm
jaketrimble
2008

Bryan,
I find it quite contrite that someone would assume that "we" have
all trained our brains to see beyond advertisements and put them in
"our peripheral vision". I think that the reaction to
advertisements is totally dependent on the user as well as how they
identify one.

That being said I do agree that over time a large amount of users
have "adapted" to the web we live in and that adaptation has
inexplicably led to us relying on our "old brain" psychology in a
new environment. Thus the "tiger".

Here is a not so new article but definitely worth reading:
http://www.useit.com/alertbox/banner-blindness.html

-Jake

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4 Aug 2008 - 6:12pm
Santiago Bustelo
2010

Advertising blindness predates the Web. Its roots are more conplex
than response to stimuli.

In the 1950's, David Ogilvy made several successful campaigns
"disguising" his ads, that ran on magazines, to match the context.
He found that "the less an advertisement looks like an
advertisement, and the more it looks like an editorial, the more
readers stop, look and read".

Advertising is not only about tigers, but about wolves in sheep's
clothing ;-)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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4 Aug 2008 - 10:36pm
jaketrimble
2008

Nicely put Santiago!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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5 Aug 2008 - 1:45pm
Don Wilde
2008

Santiago :)

Wolves, indeed.

Bryan -

When I was in school way long ago, I was enthralled with cognitive
modeling, Roger Schrank, et al. Our university (Arizona) psych
department, however, was concerned with the practicality of
behavioral conditioning. This was the late Seventies, so my reaction
was "yuk, Pavlov's dogs!"

As I've worked in the world since then, I've come to realize more
and more that the layers of our conditioned minds do have an enormous
impact on our behavior. Just as our DNA differs from a chimp's by
less than three tenths of a percent, an unfortunately large portion
of our behavior is driven by one or another of those layers.

Ads are a fact of life in trying to get the web to pay for itself.
Times are many when I'd rather apply a twelve gauge to an ad rather
than a mouse click!

My best advice with ads is to do your best to segregate your user
experience so that your contributors are less jangled than your
lookee-loo's.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
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