I just finished listening to the unabridged Audible audio book version of “The Man Who Lied To His Laptop” by Clifford Nass and Corina Yen.
After many years of working as a software interface design consultant, Clifford Nass has developed the theory that human brains cannot completely and fundamentally distinguish the difference between interacting with people and interacting with devices. This book details nearly 30 experiments Nass has performed that back up this revolutionary theory.
Remember “Clippy” from Microsoft Word? Chances are, the mere mention of the dreaded Microsoft Office animated paperclip brings up wildly negative feelings. Clippy’s main flaw was that he couldn’t learn and kept badgering Office users over and over for carrying out repetitive tasks that were not mistakes. Even though users “knew” that Clippy was just an animated character, part of their brain actually related to Clippy as a real, despicable character that lived in their computers.
Similarly, BMW had a big problem with male German car owners complaining loudly about the integrated BMW GPS units. It turns out that German men objected over and over again to BMW’s help line that the BMW GPS units came equipped with a female voice, and that just wouldn’t do, because it just wasn’t “right” to take driving directions from a female voice. “Knowing” that mostly male engineers had developed it wasn’t enough to eliminate the problem.
The book is filled with some rather amazing results of experiments that indicate just how suggestible the average person really is. Be afraid. Be very afraid.