Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Learned Helplessness

One point that Norman hits directly on the head is his idea about 'learned helplessness'. He explains this phenomenon in such a way that clearly and justly proves and defines the event.

I was especially drawn to where he says "It seems natural for people to blame their own misfortunes on the environment. It seems equally natural to blame other people's misfortunes on their personalities. Just the opposite attribution, bu the way, is made when things go well. When things go right, people credit their own forceful personalities and intelligence: "I really did a good job today' no wonder we finished the project so well."" This example is something you see everyday. It's a characteristic of humans that is so common we think it makes sense...while in fact it is actually an irrational and often irritating statement. I, for one, can't stand people who push blame around and don't swallow their pride and take what they deserve. While usually this kind of helplessness and blame-pushing is about trivial matters, it's still unnecessary to blame a piece of hardware for the users incompetence. It is even more aggravating when that same user will pat themselves on the back when they finally figure out how to work the thing that has been giving them so much trouble. It's no wonder that Norman concludes with "In all cases, whether a person is inappropriately accepting blame for the inability to work simple objects or attributing behavior to environment or personality, a faulty mental model is at work."

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