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Design for How People Think by John Whalen

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Chapter 4 Memory/Semantics

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Memory/Semantics

Abstracting Away the Detail

It may not feel like it, but as we take in a scene or a conversation, we are continuously dropping a majority of the concrete physical representation of the scene, leaving us with a very abstract and concept-based representation of what we were focusing on. But perhaps you feel like you are much more of a “visual thinker” and really do get all the details. Great! Please tell me which of the ones shown in Figure 4-1 is the real US penny.

Figure 4-1

Which is the real US penny?

If you are American, you may have seen thousands of these in your lifetime. So surely this isn’t hard for a visual thinker! (You can find the answers to this and the following riddle at the end of the chapter.)

OK, that last test might be considered unfair if you aren’t American or rarely use physical currency. In that case, let’s consider a letter you’ve seen millions of times: the letter “G”. Which of the following is the correct orientation of the letter “G” in lowercase? (See Figure 4-2.)

Figure 4-2

Which is the real “G”?

Not so easy, right? In most cases, when we look at something, we feel like we have a camera snapshot in our mind. But in less than a second, your mind discards the physical details and reverts to a stereotype ...

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