Re: intuition vs. background

Subject: Re: intuition vs. background
From: Richard Ells <rells -at- U -dot- WASHINGTON -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 1994 09:25:17 -0800

Finally, I just have to jump into a TECHWR-L discussion:

I can't help but think that us technical writers are struggling with
poor vocabulary and inappropriate concepts here. We also are making
assumptions of the uniformity of all users.

I would like to suggest an alternative approach.

1. The key concept involved when someone is trying to use something
new (whether an car or a menu) is UNCERTAINTY. They are trying
to make a decision when they lack information and have an
unclear idea of the logic behind what they are seeing.

2. Human beings have the ability to make decisions despite
uncertainty - we do it everyday in language, deciding what restaurant
to go to, making investments, etc. We have specific strategies
we use, including a) reasoning from past experience, b) inferring
choices from the paradigm (desktops probably have wastebaskets nearby),
c) exploring to elucidate the choices, and d) following someone else's

3. Our challenge as writers and designers is to present something
to the user that a) minimizes their initial uncertainty and
b) structures their response options so they can make meaningful
choices. We can also take into consideration the above strategies
in our design - consistent terminology, for example, makes it easier
to draw inferences from past experience.

In other words, we might do better to study FUZZY LOGIC concepts (which
attempt to describe decision making given uncertainty) as they relate to
human decision making, rather than old definitions of intuition.

I am enjoying TECHWR-L, keep up the lively discussions.

<<<Rick Ells - (206) 543-2875 - rells -at- cac -dot- washington -dot- edu - B40 Admin Bldg>>>

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