Anirudh Kedia

Blame our faulty brains. Luckily, there are ways to get out of the most common mental traps.

Group of friends hugging in person, no face masks.
Group of friends hugging in person, no face masks.
Photo: Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

Until there’s a safe and widespread vaccine rollout, the greatest weapons we have against the pandemic are the decisions we make every day. The bad news about this is that humans are notoriously lousy decision-makers.

Why, though? Blame our faulty brains: All of us possess cognitive biases that make it difficult to think rationally when faced with questions involving risk. Should we dine at a restaurant? Is it a good idea to send our kids back to school? Can we safely visit our folks to celebrate Thanksgiving?

While our instincts may be to go with the less-than-optimal choice, we’re not helpless. Simply knowing the reasons for our cognitive laziness can help us to make better, more informed decisions. Here are five common biases to look for, along with strategies to get yourself out of these mental traps. …


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So easy, even cats can do it

Scrolling is one of the most common actions that any user performs to interact with an interface. As a user, we don’t give it a second thought, but as a Human Factors professional, I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about it.

The act of scrolling essentially involves switching between different views. When we scroll, the information presented in the previous view has to be integrated with the information we view next. We also need to be aware of where we are on the page.

A key principle that designers use to optimize the user experience in each of these aspects is one known as Visual Momentum.


Deconstructing the phantom vibration syndrome.

A person pulling out a phone from their pocket
A person pulling out a phone from their pocket
Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash

Ever thought you heard your phone ring and rushed out of the shower to a blank screen with no missed calls? Or felt your phone vibrate in your pocket, and took it out to find no new notifications?

Often in these situations, you can swear that you heard or felt something, but reality doesn’t align with your experience.

What is happening? Is it your skin, your ears, or is it all in your head?

Well, the answer is a rather diplomatic, “it depends”.

“What does it depend on?”, would be the natural follow-up question. Let’s find out.

The key to understanding why this happens and what it depends on lies in understanding the fact that your perception of reality is created in your mind. First, our senses receive an input, then our nerves react to this input and encode it, and finally, the neural impulse reaches our brain to be comprehended. So, if you think about it, our brain never directly interacts with the outside world, it must trust the word of the nerves. …


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Steve Jobs Talking about Styluses

“God gave us 10 styluses. Let’s not invent another.”
– Steve Jobs on introducing a stylus with touch-enabled phones or tablets.

This quote by Steve Jobs is probably ironic considering the introduction of the Apple Pencil since his passing, but it is really relevant to some of the aspects of interface design that I will be talking about.

An interface if you think about it, serves as an intermediary between you — the user, and your work domain — the real world. For example, if you are using a messaging app to communicate with your friends, your so-called work domain is actually your friend circle and your relationship with them, not the messaging app itself. The messaging app is serving as an interface or an intermediary between you and your actual work domain. …


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Photo by Justin Chrn on Unsplash

Before we start with the article, try doing this:

Condition 1:

Answer the following question while simultaneously counting back in 3s from 100.

Question: Which of the following figures would be obtained by rotating Figure A 180 degrees to the right?

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Figure A

Options:

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Don’t Worry Answers are given at the end

Condition 2:

Now try counting back in 5s from 100 and solving this mental multiplication problem:

Question: What’s the product of 17 x 24?

In which condition was it easier to answer the two questions? I assume it was condition 1. Why though? Both the conditions had two tasks that had to be performed simultaneously. In fact, condition 2, had the easier of the two ‘counting backward’ tasks. …


A rocket being launched into space
A rocket being launched into space
Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

I was recently watching the historic launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket when I noticed something really interesting. While the astronauts were going through their pre-launch checklists and callouts, I heard this phrase — “We now have situation awareness.” Before that, I was just waiting for the final countdown to start but, hearing the term ‘situation awareness’ being called out made me sit up and pay attention. It was fascinating to see an integral concept in Human Factors get a mention in a historic space launch. It made me think about how far this concept has come since the 1980s when it first gained prominence. …


An image of the Vitruvian Man Drawing made by Leonardo Da Vinci
An image of the Vitruvian Man Drawing made by Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Vitruvian Man’ was one of the first systematic and scientific attempts to conceptualize the human’s empirical measurements.

I first heard the term ‘Human Factors’ back in 2018 when I took a course in Aviation Psychology. Although I had heard a bit about related fields like Engineering Psychology, I did not have any idea of what it actually entailed. If your knowledge of Human Factors is anything like mine was back then, you probably don’t have much idea of what it is all about either. Since I am going to be writing mostly about this field, I thought it might be good to begin with an introduction.

Have you ever interacted with any machine or system, struggled to use it, probably cursed it, then finally given up and learnt to use it the correct way — be it a frustrating application on your phone, a badly placed switch in your car or even a confusing arrangement of dials on your stove or oven? If you think about this entire transaction between you and the machine as a conversation it probably would be labelled as an argument. …

About

Anirudh Kedia

Aviation Geek | Grad student — writing to take a break from writing | Making Human Factors accessible one article at a time

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