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The NonVerbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues

Ergonomics of the mind


Concept1. The application of neuroscience principles to consumer product design. 2. Design features a. adapted specifically to the brain and nervous system, and b. intended to optimize product appeal, enjoyment, and value (see, e.g., new car smell). 3. Emotional messaging features added to make products more expressive (e.g., more "lively") and fun to use.


Usage: Ergonomics of the mind means "user friendly to the brain." For the last 100,000 years, human beings have designed products so as to maximize their appeal to emotions, feelings, and moods. Today we form strong attachments to products that express themselves, show attitude, and emote "personality" (see, e.g., BIG MACBLUE JEANSVEHICULAR STRIPE).

Familiarity. We prefer products we have already seen, tasted, heard, felt, or smelled over those we have not yet experienced. According to research by Robert Zajonc (1980): "If subjects are exposed to some novel visual patterns (like Chinese ideograms) and then asked to choose whether they prefer the previously exposed or new patterns, they reliably tend to prefer the preexposed ones. Mere exposure to stimuli is enough to create preferences" (quoted in LeDoux, 1996:53). Subliminal mere exposure works, too: "This led him [Robert Bornstein] to conclude that the mere exposure effect is much stronger when the stimuli are subliminally presented than when the stimuli are freely available for conscious inspection" (LeDoux, 1996:59).

Color. We like multi-hued products. Like our primate relatives, we have acute color vision and can recognize ca. 200 specific hues, from fiery reds to violet blues. (N.B.: The color green strongly attracts our attention, and is used in traffic lights, under the first and last steps of escalators, and in rented bowling shoes.)

Touch. We like products that feel smooth and soft to the touch. When a silk scarf, e.g., is drawn across our palm, the "soft" sensation is carried by free nerve endings, the oldest touch sensors found in vertebrate skin. Today, the soft or protopathic touch sensors found in hairless areas of our skin are partly responsible for our itching, tickling, and sexual sensations.



Drawing of "Showing My Nonverbal Side" by my son Aaron Huffman (copyright 2012 by Aaron M. Huffman)