Friday, June 16, 2006

Do we see with our eyes?

This post about eyetracking from Jared Spool via Stephen Downes.

I had pretty much decided not to read this post, thinking that it had little to do with me and what I do. But Stephen's admission that he has experience with not seeing the thing his gaze is focused on made me curious.

What it does highlight for me is that the direction of our gaze seems to have less to do with what we see than one might think. As an idle aside, I wonder if anyone has actually researched what Spool refers to as "male refrigerator blindness". I wonder just how male it is. My own version of this selective blindness manifests when I am looking for a kitchen utensil in the (rather untidy) drawer. The drawer is shallow - there is little chance that the utensil I want is out of sight - and yet it takes me ages to sort through all the messages my brain is receiving to identify the one utensil I'm after. Over the years I have developed a few techniques that I fondly believe help the process: I will either stand there saying the name of the utensil over and over again (I mean as in "spatula", I'm not quite sad enough to have given them all names like Brian and Fred), or I will make the shape of the thing with my free hand as the other rummages frantically. My sons find this hilarious and I have absolutely no concrete evidence that it works, but at least it makes me feel as if I'm doing something.

So if we can find the scroll bar without looking, click unerringly on something we've barely glanced at but totally miss something we're gazing at, what does this say about the communication between eyes and brain? And how much notice, as a learning designer, should I take of this?


Stephen Downes said...

Well what I noticed in the IRRODL site a bit later in the day was that I was trying to scoll and nothing was happening.

If you look at the site (here, for example) you'll see that an inner scroll-bar actually moves the article, while an outer scrollbar moves the menu.

When you mess up the things that people use without thinking like this, then the interface begins to intrude on the experience, creating dissonance and discomfort.

Anonymous said...

Useful pointer. Thanks. I agree that the process of accessing the learning should not detract from the learning experience.