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IV. False thought

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Norman mentions folk theories vs. reality and relates it back to human thought.  He uses the example of a thermostat and an air conditioner. If you turn up a thermostat all the way to keep warm in a cold room, will the room generate heat more quickly? If you blast the ac to the max with the lowest possible temperature, will the room get cooler faster?  Actually these preconceived notions prove to be false. According to Norman, if you believe that these ideas then you hold a folk theory of thermostats; He then goes onto explaining that the thermostat is just an on-off switch and there are no in-between states (Norman 39). The thermostat works at full power once it’s turned on; there is no extreme to making it work any faster or more efficiently. This example relates to mental theories which are “our conceptual models of the way objects work, events take place, or people behave, result from our tendency to form explanations of things” (Norman 38).  Everyone makes assumptions and  mental models to discuss and explain the outcome of their experiences and observations. Norman then goes onto explaining how the design of the objects sometimes can’t give you the answer you’re looking for. This is particularly interesting to me because design is supposed to help you understand the function of object but in the case of the thermostat, it can’t always provide certain answers. Sometimes human imagination and experimentation are the only way to answering the questions that can’t be solved by design. Next time I’m in my car, I’ll be sure not to blast on the heat or air conditioning, depending on the temperature, because I’ll know that it’s just a “folk theory”.


Written by minjikwon

September 16, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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