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About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design by David Cronin, Robert Reimann, Alan Cooper

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Chapter 12. Designing Good Behavior

As we briefly discussed in Chapter 10, research performed by two Stanford sociologists, Clifford Nass and Byron Reeves, suggests that humans seem to have instincts that tell them how to behave around other sentient beings. As soon as an object exhibits sufficient levels of interactivity — such as that found in your average software application — these instincts are activated. Our reaction to software as sentient is both unconscious and unavoidable.

The implication of this research is profound: If we want users to like our products, we should design them to behave in the same manner as a likeable person. If we want users to be productive with our software, we should design it to behave like a supportive human colleague. To this end, it’s useful to consider the appropriate working relationship between human beings and computers.

Note

Designing Good Behavior

The ideal division of labor in the computer age is very clear: The computer should do the work, and the person should do the thinking. Science fiction writers and computer scientists tantalize us with visions of artificial intelligence: computers that think for themselves. However, humans don’t really need much help in the thinking department — our ability to identify patterns and solve complex problems creatively is unmatched in the world of silicon. We do need a lot of help with the work of information management — activities ...

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