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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Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

“Find your passion.” We’ve all heard this term mentioned in some motivational speech or article way too many times. Throughout our lives, we are fed this idea that through extra-curricular activities, clubs, internships, university classes, or even jobs, we will discover our ‘calling’; that which we will love and can explore.

As romantic as this may sound, it may not be true for the majority of us. The phrase ‘finding your passion’ implies that your passion is something inherent or inborn — waiting to be found. However, a 2018 study done by psychologists from Stanford and Yale — NUS College Singapore would suggest otherwise. …

two people conversing
two people conversing
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Hands-free technology was supposed to make driving safer by allowing people to communicate using their cell phones without engaging their hands in holding the device.

Has this technology made driving safer than it was with handheld phones? Yes. Ample empirical evidence exists to suggest exactly that. Even if we move past empirical evidence, simple common sense would suggest that being able to have two hands at the wheel would be safer than one while negotiating a sharp turn. Not having to be visually engaged to dial a number and using voice dialing instead would obviously cause less interference than looking away from the road. …

Sleeping Cat
Sleeping Cat
Photo by Alexander Possingham on Unsplash

Have you ever stayed up late to watch a sports game? Pulled an all-nighter to study for a test? Woken up at 4 AM to catch a flight? Slept late after a crazy party? If your answer to any of these questions was yes, chances are that you have lost out on a full night’s sleep in the process.

All of these excursions are a natural and often regular part of our lives. Nevertheless, the sleep we lose for them is not without its repercussions. …

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

A disclaimer before I start — by no means do I consider myself an expert writer. I actually decided to write this article while reading several articles about writing improvement. So, while it may seem like I am preaching tips on how to write better, it is, in fact, secondhand knowledge from my efforts to improve my own writing.

However, I do know a few things about good UX design and Human Factors design principles. So, as I read through some helpful articles on writing, I started to notice a few recurring themes in the advice offered, leading me to realize that writing a good article is not too different from designing a good user experience. …

Frustrated student holding his head and looking at a laptop screen
Frustrated student holding his head and looking at a laptop screen
Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

The pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the education system. Transitioning to an online learning system has made us all realize — you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Given the far-reaching consequences of the mass transition to online learning, much has been written about it. Several conversations are centered around the perfect home set-up for children or university students, the best platform for teaching, having a good internet connection, etc. While these factors are important in their own right, I think they detract from the core goal of education — learning.

Strip away the frills, and you find that the purpose of teaching is achieving transfer. We want the students to be able to transfer their learnings from the classroom into other problems and activities. For example, students learning multiplication in middle school should be able to apply it to solve word problems. University students taking a course in Research Methods should be able to analyze any data sets given to them or apply them in their theses. …

Lines of code on a screen
Lines of code on a screen
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The rhythm of technological development in recent years seems to be as fast-paced and chaotic as the beat to Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’.

🎵 Smartphone notches, Apple watches
Bitcoin mining, 3D printing
Touch bars, Self-driving cars
Voice-activated lamps.

Robot vacuums, Work on Zoom
Home theaters for your living room
Smart TVs, Face ID
My toaster’s got a touch screen 🎵

In this case, we did start the fire, and it’ll keep burning if we don’t try to fight it.

Modern technology is highly fluid and dynamic. This means that UX professionals have to deal with a rapidly changing canvas and work environment. A design from 2 years ago may not be relevant anymore due to advancements in technology. Often, interface designs are found wanting because the designers behind them were chasing demand rather than anticipating it. …

A pair of pointe shoes
A pair of pointe shoes
Photo by Nihal Demirci on Unsplash

Practice makes automatic, not perfect; unless you do it right.

At least that’s what K. Anders Ericsson, who coined the term, ‘deliberate practice’ would have you believe. Whenever we acquire a new skill, we usually progress through the following three stages:

Cognitive Stage

The focus here is on understanding the skill and the avoidance of mistakes. Performance at this stage will resemble that of a beginner.

Associative Stage

As a result of gaining more experience, performance becomes smoother and the tendency to make mistakes is reduced. New associations between various aspects of the skill performance are formed in our minds.

For instance, if you have taken up cooking, you start to learn when to adjust the heat depending on the look and sound of the food you are cooking. …

Like many, I spent the few days following November 3rd obsessively checking my phone and laptop for the latest vote counts and results. So often, that whenever I now type “U” in Google’s search bar, the top automatic suggestion is “US election results”. It’s rather annoying now that I don’t want it, but it illustrates my point.

Stressing over the potential outcome was doing me no good, so I decided to allocate my cognitive resources elsewhere and started thinking about how media outlets were representing their data. …

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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.


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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