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It's Not Rocket Science: The Brain for Designers
Matt Webb, Director, Schulze & Webb

Date: Thursday, March 17
Time: 1:45pm - 2:30pm
Location: California Ballroom B

What can a better understanding of the human brain offer interaction design? Neuroscience can be an accessible subject, and a small knowledge of it handy for designers.

There is no computer-like brain that rationally dissects the sights and sounds emitted by the technology that surrounds us. Rather, the brain is a pragmatic and complex tangle of heuristics that learned its tricks when speed was of the essence:

- For example, certain changes in the light must be picked up much faster than others--there are built-in shortcuts to pick out shape and motion. We can take advantage of these highways into the brain.

- Another example: there are conflict-resolution heuristics to figure out whether to trust our eyes or ears more in difficult circumstances--and sometimes these are not best-guesses but second-guesses, assumptions that may prove faulty. These we have to watch out for.

Psychology has pointed out places where the brain is momentarily confused by having to jump attention around, or whether to focus in one direction or another. In the outdoor world this isn't often a problem, but in the world of dialog boxes and cell phone buttons that change their meanings, this happens all too often.

What was discovered by the observations of psychology has been investigated by brain imaging and neuroscience. We can now use this knowledge in the building of better tools and interfaces. It provides us with clues to assist the design of fluid interactions at the subsecond, almost unconscious, timescale: when the user is choosing what key to press, or where to look next.

In this session, Webb looks at some illuminating experiments, builds some understanding about the nature of perception and cognition, and puts these ideas into practice with a critique or two, with the intention of providing the attendee with a useful, and intriguing, design tool.

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