Second only to movement (animation, video), pictures of a human face capture attention in any medium, including websites. Pictures of a human face not only capture attention, but keep the attention on that part of the screen even when the picture goes away.
We start young — With some creative experiments it has been proven that babies as young as 4 months old will look at pictures of other people more than pictures of other objects or of animals. And this preference for faces continues throughout the life span. It seems to be part of our brain wiring.
The eyes have it — Research using eye tracking shows that when you show people a picture of the face of a person, their attention goes mostly to the eyes. If you want to capture someone’s attention at a website, showing a picture of a person who is looking right into the camera captures the most attention. Continue reading “100 Things You Should Know About People: #20 — Your Attention Is Riveted By Pictures Of People”
WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IS COMMONLY BELIEVED, BUT NOT TRUE — You read by recognizing the shapes of words and groups of words. Words that are in all capital letters all have the same shape: a rectangle of a certain size. This makes words displayed in all uppercase harder to read than upper and lower case (known as “mixed case”). Mixed case words are easier to read because they make unique shapes, as demonstrated by the picture below.
OK, NOW THE TRUE STUFF STARTS — When I started this article the topic was supposed to be why all capital letters are harder to read. Like most people with a usability background or a cognitive psychology background, I can describe the research — just what I wrote in the first paragraph above. I decided to look up and cite the actual research rather than just passing on the general knowledge and belief.
The research doesn’t exist, or “It’s complicated” — Something happened when I went to find the research on the shape of words and how that is related to all capital letters being harder to read. There isn’t research showing that exactly. It’s more complicated, and ultimately, more controversial. In July of 2004 Kevin Larson wrote an article that is posted at the Microsoft website that explains in depth all the research on this topic. I’ve picked out several ideas from that article and am presenting them here. A link to Kevin’s article, plus some of his research citations are at the end of this blog for those of you who want more detail. Continue reading “100 Things You Should Know About People: #19 — It’s a Myth That All Capital Letters Are Inherently Harder to Read”
In my last post I talked about eyetracking. I don’t actually do a lot of eyetracking work, but this past week I was asked to give a talk on a panel about eyetracking at the SES (Search Engine Strategy) conference in Chicago, so it is kind of on my mind. So one more post about eyetracking, and then I’ll move on to different topics!
At the conference I talked about the 7 traps to avoid if you are contemplating conducting an eyetracking study. In my last post I briefly explain what eyetracking is:
“Eye tracking is a technology that allows you to see and record what a person is looking at, and for how long. One way it is used is to study web sites to see where people are looking on a web page, where they look first, second, etc. It’s a pretty interesting technology, one of the benefits being that you don’t have to rely on what people SAY they are looking at, but can collect the data directly.”
Here’s a brief summary of my talk at the conference:
Trap #1: Underestimating the effect of what you ask people to do on where they look — When you are doing an eyetracking study you are interested in where people are looking on the screen. But the research shows that where they look depends on what you have asked them. See my last post for details and examples on this.
Trap #2: Assuming that where people are looking is what they are paying attention to — At the SES conference I believe Shari Thurow (who spoke on the panel with me) called this the ketchup effect (or maybe it was the milk effect or the refrigerator effect). Have you ever opened the refrigerator to get the ketchup out and you can’t find it? Even though it is right in front of you? People often look at something without paying attention to it. And we have peripheral vision too, so it is also possible for people to be looking at one thing and actually paying attention to something nearby. Continue reading “Eyetracking Studies — 7 Traps to Avoid”
Eye tracking is a technology that allows you to see and record what a person is looking at, and for how long. One way it is used is to study web sites to see where people are looking on a web page, where they look first, second, etc. It’s a pretty interesting technology, one of the benefits being that you don’t have to rely on what people SAY they are looking at, but can collect the data directly. Like any technology, however, it’s not perfect, and one of the problems with eye tracking is that you can’t just give people a web site to look at and then assume that where they look is what they are “really interested” in.
We underestimate the effect our instructions have on where someone looks. Look at the picture at the beginning of this post. In research by Yarbus, people were shown this picture, and then given different instructions of what to think about while looking at the picture. Below are the eye gaze patterns matched with the instructions that people were given: Continue reading “100 Things You Should Know About People: #18 — What People Look At On a Picture Or Screen Depends On What You Say To Them”
You are shopping for a new computer and the salesperson you are talking to is offering you what seems to be a good deal. And yet there is a part of you that feels uncomfortable and isn’t sure if this is the right computer, or the right deal, or the right store for you. If you had to articulate why you felt uncomfortable you might not be able to say why, or you’d make up a reason, but that might not really be the reason. So what’s going on?
Your unconscious mind is faster than your conscious mind — One of my favorite pieces of research is the study by Bechara and Damasio. It’s a little complicated to explain, so a few months ago I put together a short video “re-enactment” to help describe the research. I have a summary below as well:
You want to buy that Kindle, but you are thinking maybe you should wait for a while. Maybe you should see if the price comes down after the holiday shopping season, or maybe you should make sure that you have enough cash to pay all of your credit card bills before you spend money on a new gadget for yourself. Do you wait or not?
Whether you are the type of person who can delay gratification or whether you aren’t, chances are high that you’ve been this way (a delayer or not a delayer) since you were a young child.
Here is one of my favorite psychology research videos. Watch these little kids decide whether to eat the one marshmallow that is put in front of them, or wait and thereby get 2 marshmallows:
There are gender differences in brain activity when people view something the describe as beautiful. For men it is the right hemisphere that is active, but for women both right and left hemispheres light up. For more information, see:
Humans and mice make the same assessments of risk says Deric Bownds. I believe this gives more proof that decision-making is unconscious. For more information see:
If your product name is long and hard to pronounce the product may be viewed unfamiliar. Things that are seen as unfamiliar are also viewed as risky…maybe too risky. For more information:
I hate those smiley face icons, but a utility company is successfully using them to encourage people to conserve power! For more information:
Smell unconsciously affects your judgments of other people. Even if you don’t notice that there is a scent. for more information:
Have your own favorites of recent research? Let us know….
Now some new research tests this idea online. In a series of research studies by Chen (see end for full reference), visitors to a simulated website were given two holiday traveling books to choose from. Both had similar sounding titles, were hardcover, showed similar number of pages, list price and availability.
In the first study Chen showed different consumer ratings. In some cases people saw that one book had 5 stars and the other had 1, or one had 4 and the other had 2, or both had 3 stars. The books with more stars were chosen signficantly more often. Ok, it’s not a big surprise, but it’s good to have some actual data. But read on, the rest of the studies got curiouser and curiouser…
In the second study Chen compared book sales volumes instead of star ratings. People chose the book that was selling the best.
In the third study Chen tested consumer recommendations vs. expert recommendations. One group got this info: “Name of Book Here” is the leading book in the tourism area as voted for online by readers” vs. “Our advisors, experts in the tourism area, strongly recommend “Name of Book Here”. People chose the book picked by consumers more than the book picked by experts.
And in the fourth study, Chen tested a recommender system, (“Customers who bought this book also bought”) vs. the recommendation of the website owner, (“Our Internet bookstore staff strongly recommends that you buy…”) People followed the recommendation of the website owner 75% of the time, but they followed the recommender system 88.4% of the time.
Consumer recommendations are powerful. Social validation at work. Welcome to the herd!
Reference: Chen, Yi-Fen, Herd behavior in purchasing books online, Computers in Human Behavior, 24, (2008), 1977-1992.