[EAS] The Psychology of Machines

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Thu Mar 16 22:26:40 EST 2006

Dear Colleagues -

Donald Norman, EE major as an undergrad, and 
psychologist beyond that, continues to prowl the 
boundaries of cognitive psychology and 
engineering. It started with his 1988 book "The 
Psychology of Everyday Things." That was all 
about the psychology of people amidst 
recalcitrant simpler technological objects of the 
day. Now those objects are vastly more complex 
and are developing a psychology of their own.

"Ambidextrous Magazine," whose article is quoted, 
is a project of Stanford's d.school, that rich 
mingling place of engineering, product design and 
David Kelley's IDEO.


(from INNOVATION, 8 March 2006)

       As technology becomes ever more pervasive in our lives, design guru
Don Norman is investigating the "psychology of machines" and what it will
mean for our interactions with autonomous agents. Norman says as autonomous
agents take over functions in our houses, our cars and elsewhere, it's
important to think about their personalities. "A personality trait
describes the way people behave in a given situation. So we are
automatically designing personalities into our machines, even if we don't
realize it
 Is your car a relaxed care? Or is it very tense?" Norman says
humans' emotional systems are analogous to machines' information processing
systems that make value judgments. "Now, these emotions don't have to be at
all like human ones, but if the machine is to interact with humans, there
have to be some commonalities. We display our emotions in our body. And
over the many years of evolution we've evolved to use the body signals such
as facial expressions
 (as) a rich communication device. There is no reason
for machines to have similar facial expressions or body expressions --
except that these might help communicate with people. So if my vacuum
cleaner is having trouble, why not communicate that by something akin to
facial expressions?" Norman says the future of intelligent design is
machine architectures based emotional structures, focusing on "how we
interact with the autonomous agents, what happens when they fail, how we
instruct them, and how we trust them." (Ambidextrous magazine, Issue 2)

More information about the EAS-INFO mailing list